Patellofemoral pain syndrome (runner’s knee): Things to understand

athletes PAIN

Around the medical community, patellofemoral syndrome, also known as patellofemoral pain syndrome, is a phrase used to describe discomfort that occurs around the patella, or kneecap, as well as in the front of the knee.

Athletes and others who participate in sports such as running, basketball, and other activities are frequently affected by runner’s knee, also known as jumper’s knee.

Patellofemoral syndrome, on the other hand, can afflict persons who are not athletes and is most commonly found in teenagers, young people, manual laborers, and older adults.

Patellofemoral syndrome, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians, is the most prevalent cause of knee discomfort in the general population. Overuse of the knee joint, physical damage, or misalignment of the kneecap are all potential causes of this condition.

Important knowledge on Patellofemoral pain syndrome

  • Patellofemoral pain syndrome develops when nerves in the tendons, synovial tissue, and bone around the kneecap experience discomfort.
  • When patellofemoral syndrome occurs, the most noticeable symptom is an agonizing sensation in the front of the knee that is dull and persistent.
  • Patellofemoral syndrome is often diagnosed by a doctor after doing a physical examination and reviewing the patient’s medical history.
  • When it comes to treating patellofemoral pain syndrome, surgery is considered a last choice. It is only utilized in the most severe instances and only after other non-invasive therapies have failed to relieve the symptoms.

What exactly is Patellofemoral pain syndrome?

Patellofemoral syndrome can develop gradually over time or as a result of a single traumatic event. Chondromalacia patella, a disorder that affects the patellar tendon, may also be present.

When cartilage around the knee wears away and softens, it causes inflammation and discomfort. Chondromalacia is a condition that affects the cartilage surrounding the knee.


Any individual who suffers from patellofemoral syndrome may notice an increase in their knee discomfort if they engage in any of the following activities:

athletes PAIN
Despite the fact that athletes are at the greatest risk, patellofemoral syndrome can occur in non-athletes as well.
  • squatting
  • sitting for long periods of time
  • ascending or descending stairs
  • kneeling

Other signs and symptoms they may experience include:

  • If the initial symptoms are not addressed, the result will be decreased thigh muscular strength.
  • mild swelling
  • leg pain that feels like it is grating or grinding as you bend or stretch your leg


Patellofemoral syndrome occurs when the rear of the kneecap comes into contact with the thigh bone. Although the specific explanation for this is not fully known, it is believed to be related to:

  • Trauma: The chance of developing patellofemoral pain syndrome increases if you have an injury to your kneecap or have surgery on your knee.
  • Knee overuse: Running and jumping are two activities that place a repeated strain on the knee joint, which can result in discomfort in the patella (patellar tendon).
  • Unbalanced muscle : When specific muscles, such as those surrounding the hip and knee, are weak, they are unable to keep nearby body parts, such as the kneecap, in normal alignment, resulting in injury. It is possible that this will result in injury.

Risk factors

 jumping activities
Running and jumping sports can put a lot of strain on the knee joint, which can be quite painful.

In the medical community, risk factors are defined as variables that raise the possibility of getting a disease or injury.

The following are some of the most common risk factors for patellofemoral syndrome:

  • Flat feet: As a result of the added stress placed on the knee joints by those who have flat feet, they may be at greater risk of developing patellofemoral syndrome.
  • Sex: It is thought that women are more susceptible to developing this illness than males, probably due to a higher risk of muscle imbalance and a larger angle in the female pelvis.
  • High-impact activities: Participating in high-impact or weight-bearing sports, such as running, jumping, or squatting, produces recurrent stress to the joints, increasing the likelihood of knee injuries.
  • Age: Patellofemoral syndrome is most common in adolescents and young adults, while it can occur in adults as well. It can also occur in elderly persons.


A doctor will enquire about the patient’s symptoms and may ask them to move their legs and knees in certain ways to check for instability and determine the range of motion in order to diagnose the condition.

Imaging tests, including as X-rays and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, may be required in some circumstances to confirm a diagnosis and rule out the presence of additional disorders.


When someone suffers from patellofemoral syndrome, they can choose from a number of therapy options, including:

Using the RICE procedure

Simple remedies, such as rest and ice, may be sufficient to relieve the discomfort and swelling associated with patellofemoral syndrome in many instances.

The RICE protocol, which stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation, entails elevating the knee above the level of the heart, resting the leg, using ice packs on a regular basis, using compression bandages, and elevating the knee above the level of the heart. The RICE regimen is most effective when it is implemented within 72 hours after the occurrence of the injury.


Patellofemoral syndrome can be relieved with the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen, which are available over-the-counter. Because of the possibility of gastrointestinal difficulties, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) should not be used long-term.

Physical therapy is a type of treatment that involves the movement of the body.

A therapist may suggest that you do the following:

  • a brace
  • massage
  • exercises and stretches
  • patella taping

When you work with a trained physical therapist, you can assist to reduce your symptoms and speed up your recovery.

Modification of an activity

Given that overuse of the knee is a significant contributing factor to patellofemoral syndrome, activity modification can help to limit future injury to the knee and prevent the disease from returning.

Patellofemoral syndrome patients may prefer to restrict or avoid activities that contain repetitive high-impact movements, such as:

  • sitting for long periods of time
  • jumping
  • kneeling
  • running
  • squatting
  • going up and down stairs or other steep inclines
  • lunging

Some examples of low-impact workouts that are less stressful on the knees are as follows:

  • using elliptical machines
  • cycling
  • water aerobics
  • swimming


Surgery is typically performed with the use of an arthroscope, which is a tiny tube that contains a camera and light. The scope is placed into the knee, and surgical instruments are utilized to remove diseased cartilage from within the joint space.

This minimally invasive technique has the potential to improve mobility while also relieving stress.

An surgery on the knee may be required in severe cases of patellofemoral syndrome in order to modify the direction in which the patella travels over and scrapes against the femur.

Preventive tips

Warming up before exercise
When you warm up before activity, you increase your flexibility and minimize your chance of developing patellofemoral syndrome.

Patellofemoral syndrome can be extremely painful and debilitating.

While not all cases of knee difficulties can be avoided, there are activities that may be taken to lessen the likelihood of developing them. These are some examples:

  • Avoiding stress to the knee: Reduce the stress on the knees and legs by participating in low-impact activities, wearing supportive footwear, and wearing knee braces during workouts.
  • Changing training regimens gradually: Increasing the intensity, duration, or frequency of workouts in a short period of time might cause knee pain.
  • Warming up before workouts: Whenever possible, a person should stretch and participate in mild activities before engaging in proper exercise. This can help to increase flexibility while also reducing the risk of injury.
  • Having a healthy weight: Carrying an excessive amount of bodyweight places stress on the joints, increasing the likelihood of developing patellofemoral syndrome. Maintaining a healthy weight may be accomplished by the consumption of a well-balanced diet and the participation in regular physical exercise.
  • Maintaining muscular balance: Exercises that target muscle imbalance in the knee and leg can help to maintain good knee alignment while reducing the likelihood of developing muscular imbalance in the knee and leg.
  • Correcting flat feet: It is possible to treat flat feet by wearing supportive footwear and shoe inserts, as well as by reducing excessive stress on the knee joints.


Recovery duration varies from person to person and is dependent on a variety of circumstances, including the intensity of the symptoms and the therapies that were utilized.

However, with the use of at-home and minimally invasive therapy, the majority of instances will recover within a few weeks. A number of people find that following the RICE protocol and participating in low-impact activities improves their attitude.

It may take up to 5 months to fully recover from patellofemoral syndrome, particularly if the condition was caused by physical trauma.