Patellofemoral Knee pain

also known as Anterior knee pain, Patellofemoral pain syndrome

What is Patellofemoral Knee Pain?

Patellofemoral (PFJ) knee pain is a common condition especially in the active population. It results in pain around the knee cap. It is often described as a strong ache/pulling sensation and can be difficult to localise. The condition is often aggravated by loaded activities with the knee bent. This includes stairs (particularly downstairs), running, squats and lunges. Sometimes, sitting with knees bent can be irritable too. There is usually no specific cause/injury/trauma. It is often sore during activity, but most noticeable when you have cooled down later that day or the day after.

PFJ knee pain is often associated with poor tracking of your patella within its groove, which can happen for a variety of reasons. It may be due to poor muscle balances with tighter/stronger muscles pulling on your knee cap or hip weakness. This results in poor alignment of your leg.

Why are runners so prone to developing PFJ knee pain?

Running involves spending a lot of time on one leg and landing. This requires substantial control of your knee and entire lower limb. If you have poor strength or stability at your hip/ankle this can lead to poor alignment of your knee, placing excessive load on it. An example of poor alignment might be that you notice that your knees roll in and rub against each other. Running also tends to load the quadriceps. If your muscle balance is not optimal or your technique excessively loads the quadriceps, then these muscles may become tight and pull on the patella.

How can physiotherapy help?

  • Physiotherapists can perform an assessment to determine your diagnosis. This will also help determine any issues that may be causing the condition eg. Muscle tightness, muscle imbalance/weakness, alignment, foot control etc.
  • They can provide advice on modifying activity to help reduce symptoms.
  • Some other interventions may involve taping, soft tissue release and prescription of an exercise program (the exercise/stretches recommended will ultimately depend on your assessment).