Patellofemoral Syndrome

Patellofemoral syndrome is a condition that is known for causing pain in the front of the knee and around the kneecap. Sometimes referred to as “jumper’s knee” or “runner’s knee,” this is commonly caused by overuse of the knee joint and/or trauma.

Athletes tend to get this often with overuse of the knee and having frequent damage done to it, but anyone can present symptoms. This can also happen naturally as some people are born with kneecaps that move abnormally in the groove at the end of the femur. This can create pressure on the cartilage or on where the femur rubs. While painful, the condition can be treated in the comfort of your home. There are ways to reduce the pain and conserve what is left of your knee.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Overall, the most prominent symptom is a dull, aching pain that happens on the front of the knee. It may be in one or both knees and will worsen with activity. Other ways to see if you suffer from patellofemoral syndrome is when you have pain while exercising, bending the knee while trying to climb stairs or jump, when sitting for extended periods of time, or if you hear or feel a crackling or popping sound as you move the joint.

A doctor can diagnose it after performing a physical exam and asking you to move your knee. They can also order an X-ray to take photos of the area and see if there is any kind of deterioration to the tendons and muscles.

Treatments You Can Do at Home

There are a few ways in which you can treat this from the comfort of your own home. One method is known as RICE. It stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. Make sure to wrap your knee as well.

Other options include taking anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen and naproxen. You can also wear special shoe inserts (called orthotics) to add support to the foot and ankle.

Finally, get sports massages to keep the muscles from tightening up and causing pain. To keep it from getting worse, try avoiding activities that may overuse your knee and instead do things that won’t add impact, like swimming or bicycling.

Other Forms of Treatment

If your symptoms don’t seem to respond to any treatments you’ve already tried, you may need to see a doctor for possible surgical intervention. One of the most popular procedures is called arthroscopy. This involves removing damaged cartilage and releasing any tendons that may be too tight or pull on the kneecap. This should alleviate any groove issues and any pain or inflammation.

There is also tibial tubercle transfer. This is when you realign the kneecap by moving the tibial as well as the patellar tendon to improve alignment. Most of the time, these procedures are only done in extreme situations, but they may be the best option for reducing the pain the patient feels.

Exercises to Help

With exercise, you can reduce the need for possible procedures. One way is by performing leg extensions. Sit in a chair with both feet on the floor. Then, straighten one and extend it out while feeling the muscles of the upper thigh tighten. Hold for five seconds before lowering the foot. Repeat this ten times and then perform with the other leg. Rest only for 15 to 30 seconds before repeating both legs for two more sets.

Another exercise is the quadriceps stretch. Stand with a hand resting on a sturdy surface. Pull the opposite foot towards the buttocks and grasp the top of the foot. Hold this position for 20 to 30 seconds before releasing it and repeating with the other leg. Do this three to five times on each side.


Patellofemoral syndrome is not a life-threatening disease. It can be avoided so long as care is taken not to overstrain or damage the knees. To keep it from becoming too much of a problem, make sure to perform the exercises listed to keep the tendons and muscles in good shape. Also, be sure to rest and relax the area when you can and elevate it to keep inflammation down. With proper preventative training, you can avoid the possibility of needing surgery and having to take time away from work to get better.

Do you have questions about the diagnosis and treatment of patellofemoral syndrome at Mobility Bone & Joint Institute?

Call (978) 794-1946 or click here to schedule an appointment at our Andover, MA office.

Call (603) 898-2244 or click here to schedule an appointment at our Salem, NH office.

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