Skip links

A Comprehensive Guide on Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome Causes and Symptoms


The human knee, a marvel of biological engineering, serves as the hinge point between the thigh and the shin. Essential for tasks ranging from standing and walking to jumping and squatting, this joint withstands considerable stress throughout a person’s lifetime. Nevertheless, not every knee issue originates from the wear and tear associated with ageing. A prevalent problem experienced by numerous individuals, especially among young athletes, is Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (PFPS). This article extensively examines PFPS, elucidating its origins, symptoms, and available treatment approaches.

What is Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome?

Commonly referred to as “runner’s knee,” PFPS exhibits the symptom of pain situated in the frontal region of the knee, encircling the patella (kneecap). This pain frequently becomes more pronounced during the act of climbing up or descending stairs, executing squats, enduring prolonged periods of sitting, or participating in activities that exert stress on the knee joint.

What Causes PFPS?

The exact cause of PFPS can vary from individual to individual, but several factors contribute to its onset:

  • Malalignment: If the patella does not track correctly within its groove on the femur (thigh bone), it can cause undue pressure and friction, leading to pain.
  • Muscle Imbalances: Weakness or tightness in certain muscle groups, especially the quadriceps, hamstrings, and hip muscles, can impact the tracking of the patella.
  • Overuse: Repetitive activities or a sudden increase in physical activity can strain the patellofemoral joint.
  • Trauma: Direct blows or injuries to the kneecap can initiate symptoms.
  • Foot Mechanics: Flat feet or other foot anomalies can alter the biomechanics of the leg, placing extra stress on the knee.

Symptoms of PFPS

A distinctive sign of PFPS manifests as a persistent, dull pain situated in the frontal region of the knee. This discomfort can vary between sporadic occurrences and continuous presence, with its degree ranging from minor annoyance to intense distress. Some individuals also report a sensation of grinding or clicking when moving the knee.


A thorough clinical evaluation by a physician or physiotherapist is often sufficient to diagnose PFPS. This typically involves a physical examination, analysis of movement patterns, and discussions about activity levels and onset of symptoms. While imaging tests like X-rays or MRIs are not always required, they can be beneficial in ruling out other knee pathologies.

Treatment Options

PFPS treatment typically centres around non-operative strategies:

  • Physiotherapy: Tailored exercises aimed at strengthening the muscles around the knee can improve patella tracking and alleviate pain.
  • Activity Modification: Temporarily reducing or modifying activities that exacerbate the pain can aid recovery.
  • Pain Management: Over-the-counter pain medications or anti-inflammatories can alleviate symptoms.
  • Footwear and Orthotics: Supporting the foot appropriately can help correct biomechanical imbalances.
  • Taping or Bracing: These can provide support and improve patella alignment.

In rare instances where conservative measures fail, surgical intervention might be considered.


Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome, while common, should not be taken lightly. Early intervention and appropriate management can prevent chronic pain and dysfunction. If you or someone you know experiences persistent knee pain, it’s crucial to consult a medical professional. A proactive approach ensures that your knees remain as resilient as the rest of you.

If this article resonated with you then…

This article was written by our team of specialist therapists at Perfect Balance Clinic. If you would like more specific advice about how our team can help you with this condition or symptoms you may be having, please complete the contact form below and one of the team will get back to you shortly.

    Return to top of page