Patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS) is pain felt behind or around the kneecap. Patellofemoral is a term used to refer to the joint between your kneecap (patella) and thigh bone (femur). The condition is also called runner’s knee.
Patellofemoral pain is common in people who participate in high impact sports, such as basketball, volleyball, football, soccer, tennis, cycling, and running. People with activities or work requiring frequent bending and straightening of their knees may also be at risk for PFPS.
Patellofemoral pain syndrome can happen when
- The patella is overused (repetitive movements)
- Direct blow to the kneecap happens
- With tightness or weakness of thigh muscles, especially the quadriceps
- There is poor alignment of the kneecap
Signs and Symptoms
A dull ache or discomfort underneath the patella is the most common symptom of patellofemoral pain syndrome. Pain may worsen when you walk down stairs, squat, kneel, or get up after sitting for long periods. Other signs and symptoms may include
- Mild swelling around the knee
- Feeling of the involved knee giving way (knee buckling)
- Grinding sensation when you walk or attempt to bend and straighten your knee.
If you experience severe pain, especially after a direct impact to your knee, don’t hesitate to consult your healthcare provider for proper diagnosis and treatment.
Your doctor will likely ask about your symptoms and the activity you were doing at the time you felt your pain. He or she may also ask about your usual activities or movements while at work. Your doctor will then perform a thorough physical examination of your knee to determine the cause of your pain.
Your doctor may recommend imaging tests, such as X-rays or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of your knee to rule out damage to other knee structures.
Treatment that you will receive will depend on the actual cause of your pain. Often, nonsurgical treatments may just be enough to help relieve your pain and other related problems. These may include
- Avoiding activities that causes your knee pain (e.g. running, jumping)
- RICE therapy (rest, ice, compression, elevation)
- Non steroidal anti-inflammatory medication (NSAIDs), such as aspirin or ibuprofen
- Physical therapy
- Taping or bracing to help stabilize your kneecap
Patellofemoral pain syndrome, often, does not require surgery. However, if conservative treatments do not relieve your pain, your doctor may recommend surgery. Your doctor will discuss with you the best surgical approach best for your particular needs.