female physical therapist stretching her male patients knee and leg

Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome

One of the most common locations for knee pain is near the kneecap (patella) and is known as patellofemoral pain syndrome. It’s also sometimes called “runner’s knee” and often occurs in women and young adults.

Physical therapy for patellofemoral pain syndrome

As the name suggests, the main symptom of patellofemoral pain syndrome is knee pain, especially when sitting with bent knees, squatting, jumping, going up or downstairs, or when the knee is bent during any weight-bearing activity.

Physical therapy strengthens the hip flexor, trunk, and knee muscle groups. Physical therapy can help reduce pain, increase mobility, and get you back to doing the activities, recreation, and sports you love.

Causes of patellofemoral pain

The exact cause of patellofemoral pain is unknown. Recent theories suggest that the kneecap mistracks and the rubbing against the femur causes irritation and pain. Hip and ankle mobility limitations and weakness can also contribute to knee pain.

A variety of activities that require repetitive motion can contribute to patellofemoral pain. Muscle imbalances, limited flexibility, improper training techniques, and biomechanical abnormalities like excessive pronation of the foot can be contributing factors.

older woman with white hair using resistance bands with physical therapist

Patellofemoral (knee) pain symptoms

Patients suffering from patellofemoral (knee) pain syndrome may experience the following symptoms:

  • Pain at the front of the knee and kneecap
  • Pain that intensifies while climbing stairs or squatting
  • Stiffness in the knee
male physical therapist examining female patients legs and knees

How we treat patellofemoral pain syndrome

There is a wide range of treatments that can be used for patellofemoral pain syndrome, including:

  • Taping to reduce pain and retrain the muscles to work efficiently
  • Modalities include ice, heat, ultrasound, or electrical stimulation to decrease pain and swelling
  • Strengthening exercises to target the core, hip, knee, and ankle
  • Stretching of hip and knee musculature
  • Manual soft tissue mobilization and joint mobilization
  • Manual therapy 
  • Dry needling
  • Balance and functional retraining exercises to improve the recreational, sport, and daily living activities
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What to expect

Your first physical therapy appointment is about creating a personalized treatment plan based on your health history, diagnosis, and goals. Here’s what you can expect at your first physical therapy appointment:

Your first appointment will last about an hour. Please arrive 15 minutes early.

If applicable, bring your physician referral or prescription, insurance card, paperwork, ID, and co-payment.

At your appointment, we’ll do an initial evaluation and discuss your care plan.

*Services are not available at every location. Visit our Locations page for more details.