Patient Information: Knee Pain (Patellofemoral Syndrome)
What are the common causes of knee pain?
- Knee pain can be caused by injuries to the tendons, ligaments, and cartilage, or by overuse
- One of the most common types of non-traumatic knee pain is patellofemoral syndrome
- Patellofemoral syndrome can be caused by overuse, abnormal kneecap motion, weak/imbalanced leg muscles, or changes in intensity or type of exercise
What are the symptoms of patellofemoral syndrome?
- Pain in the front of the knee, around or under the patella (kneecap)
- Knee stiffness, difficulty with kneeling, climbing stairs, squatting
How is patellofemoral syndrome diagnosed?
- Your physician will perform an exam to evaluate the structures inside your knee- the tendons, ligaments, and cartilage
- They will also evaluate the tracking of your patella (how it moves when you bend and straighten your leg)
- Musculoskeletal ultrasound can be done to evaluate the soft tissue around your patella for inflammation
- X-rays may be obtained to review your patellar alignment
- If injury to an internal knee structure is suspected, an MRI may be obtained
How is patellofemoral syndrome treated?
- Initial treatment focuses on improving pain and stiffness with decreased activities, ice, compression wraps, and anti-inflammatory medication
- An anti-inflammatory injection under or around the patella may also be utilized
- The second phase of treatment addresses the cause of the pain, by strengthening weak muscle groups, taping/bracing to improve patella alignment, and slowly increasing activity levels
- In rare cases where patella alignment does not improve with rehabilitation, surgery may be indicated
How can I prevent patellofemoral syndrome?
- Include strength training activities for all of the muscles that support the knee and patella- for example, resistance band walks, abductor/adductor machines, and single leg squats
- Warm up and stretch prior to exercising, and include a cool down stretch at the end
- Wear activity-appropriate, supportive footwear
- Increase activity intensity slowly, and incorporate rest days and low-impact exercise days (swimming, yoga, tai chi)
- Proactively address new-onset patellar pain by reducing activity intensity, and taping or bracing the patella if needed
Where can I learn more about patellofemoral syndrome?
- Education - OrthoInfo: https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases--conditions/patellofemoral-pain-syndrome/
- Knee strength training - Boston Sports Medicine: http://www.bostonsportsmedicine.com/pdf/protocols/knee_strength_training.pdf
- Yoga for knee stability - Yoga with Adriene: http://yogawithadriene.com/yoga-for-sensitive-knees/
To schedule an appointment, visit the Steward St. Elizabeth’s Sports Medicine website at: semc.org/services-directory/orthopedics/sportsmedicine
STEWARD MEDICAL GROUP Bone & Joint Center
736 Cambridge St, CCP9, Brighton, MA 02135
Phone 617-779-6500 Fax 617-779-6555
Adapted from: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (www.aaos.org), Hospital for Special Surgery (www.hss.edu), Mayo Clinic (www.mayoclinic.org) This information is for patient reference only. It is not intended to diagnose or guide treatment without evaluation by a physician.