Managing Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome

Managing Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome

Managing Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome

Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (PFPS), often referred to as "runner's knee," is a common condition that affects athletes and non-athletes alike. Characterized by pain around the kneecap (patella), PFPS can be debilitating, limiting one's ability to perform everyday activities. Effective management of PFPS involves a multifaceted approach that includes physical therapy, lifestyle modifications, and, in some cases, medical interventions.


Understanding Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome

PFPS typically arises from a combination of factors, including:

  • Overuse or repetitive stress on the knee joint.
  • Malalignment of the patella.
  • Muscle imbalances or weaknesses, particularly in the quadriceps and hip muscles.
  • Tightness in the muscles around the knee.
  • Poor foot biomechanics.

Symptoms of PFPS

The primary symptom of PFPS is a dull, aching pain around or behind the kneecap, which can be exacerbated by activities such as:

  • Running or jumping.
  • Squatting or kneeling.
  • Climbing stairs.
  • Sitting for prolonged periods with bent knees.
  • Initial Management Strategies

Rest and Activity Modification

The first step in managing PFPS is to reduce activities that exacerbate the pain. This might involve:

  • Reducing high-impact activities like running and jumping.
  • Modifying exercise routines to include low-impact activities such as swimming or cycling.
  • Gradually reintroducing activities as pain allows.
  • Pain Management

Managing pain is crucial in the early stages of PFPS. Techniques include:


  • Ice Therapy: Applying ice packs to the knee for 15-20 minutes several times a day to reduce inflammation.
  • Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs): Medications like ibuprofen can help reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Compression and Elevation: Using knee sleeves or compression wraps and elevating the leg to decrease swelling.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is a cornerstone of PFPS management, focusing on strengthening, flexibility, and correcting biomechanics.


Strengthening Exercises

Building strength in the muscles around the knee, particularly the quadriceps, hamstrings, and hip muscles, is essential for stabilizing the patella and improving knee function.


Quadriceps Strengthening: Exercises like straight leg raises, mini squats, and leg presses.

Hip Strengthening: Clamshells, side-lying leg raises, and hip abductions with resistance bands to target the hip abductors and external rotators.

Core Strengthening: Planks and other core exercises to improve overall stability.

Stretching Exercises

Stretching tight muscles around the knee can help alleviate stress on the patella.

Hamstring Stretch: Gentle stretching of the hamstrings to reduce tension.

Iliotibial Band Stretch: Foam rolling or stretching the IT band.

Quadriceps Stretch: Regular stretching of the quadriceps to maintain flexibility.

Patellar Mobilization

Techniques to improve patellar tracking and reduce malalignment include:

Patellar Taping: Using kinesiology tape to help guide the patella in its proper path.

Manual Therapy: Performed by a physical therapist to mobilize the patella and surrounding soft tissues.

Biomechanical Assessment

A thorough biomechanical assessment can identify contributing factors to PFPS, such as poor foot mechanics or gait abnormalities. Corrective measures might include:


Custom Orthotics: Prescribed by a podiatrist to address flat feet or high arches.

Gait Training: Adjustments in running or walking patterns to reduce stress on the knee.

Lifestyle Modifications

Incorporating lifestyle changes can help manage PFPS and prevent recurrence.

Weight Management: Maintaining a healthy weight to reduce pressure on the knees.

Proper Footwear: Wearing supportive shoes that provide adequate cushioning and arch support.

Activity Modification: Incorporating a variety of activities to avoid overuse and ensure balanced muscle development.

Medical Interventions

In cases where conservative treatments are ineffective, medical interventions may be necessary.

Corticosteroid Injections: To reduce inflammation and pain around the knee.

Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) Therapy: Using the body’s own healing properties to promote tissue repair.

Surgery: Rarely required, but may be considered in severe cases to realign the patella or repair damaged tissues.

Prevention Strategies

Preventing PFPS involves addressing risk factors and maintaining a balanced exercise regimen.

Warm-Up and Cool-Down: Always perform proper warm-up and cool-down exercises to prepare the muscles and prevent injury.

Gradual Progression: Gradually increase the intensity and duration of physical activities to avoid overloading the knee.

Cross-Training: Engaging in a variety of exercises to promote overall fitness and prevent overuse injuries.


Managing Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome requires a comprehensive approach that includes rest, physical therapy, biomechanical corrections, and lifestyle modifications. Early intervention and adherence to a structured treatment plan can lead to significant improvement and allow individuals to return to their desired activities. By addressing the underlying causes and focusing on prevention, those affected by PFPS can achieve long-term relief and maintain knee health.


By Dr.Bharti Bansiwal (Physiotherapist)