Physical Therapist’s Guide to Patellofemoral Pain problems

What is patellofemoral pain syndrome?
Patellofemoral pain syndrome, commonly known as movie goers or runner's knee, describes pain in the front of the knee. This syndrome is more common in athletes, especially those who are jumping and running, or individuals who work at a desk job and sit for prolonged periods of time. This pain occurs due to malalignment and abnormal stress of the knee cap on the femur.

There are multiple causes for patellofemoral pain syndrome including:

  • muscle imbalance: weakness and tightness in other muscles leads to abnormal tracking of the patella on the femur during movement. Abnormal alignment of the knee cap causes increased stress on the knee joint. Unnecessary stress on the knee joint can lead to pain.

  • overuse: repetitive use of the quadriceps muscle can translate to increased stress of knee joint.

  • trauma: a traumatic fall or dislocation of the knee cap has been linked to patellofemoral pain syndrome.

How does it feel?
Many patients describe this pain as sharp and deep within the knee joint. Patients often first notice this knee pain when going up or down the stairs, transitioning from sitting to standing, sitting for long periods of time, squatting, kneeling, and lunging. Since the patella is not optimally tracking on the femur, the individual can feel knee pain whenever they bend their knee or place more weight on their affected leg.

Knee pain can make a person avoid performing functional daily activities such as navigating the stairs negotiation, walking, and squatting to lift objects. The more an individual avoids an activity, the more de-conditioned and fearful the patient can become to perform that activity.

How can a Physical Therapist help?
Physical Therapists provide patient-centered care based on each person's personal presentation. Your physical Therapist will help you to strengthening your core, hips, and leg muscles, to ensure that there is a balance between all of the muscles surrounding the patella. Additionally, your PT will prescribe stretches to effectively lengthen any tight muscles and provide additional education regarding optimal shoes to ensure that enough shock absorption is occurring while an individual walk or runs.

What to expect when I see my Physical Therapist
If you see your physical therapist first, the physical therapist will conduct a thorough evaluation that includes taking your health history. Your physical therapist will also ask you detailed questions about your condition, such as:

  • Which activities increase your pain?

  • Which activities decrease your pain?

  • Do you have difficulty with any daily activities or work duties?

  • Have you used a knee brace?

  • Have you received imaging of you knee?

  • What are your goals?


Can this injury or condition be prevented?
To help prevent patellofemoral syndrome, your physical therapist will likely advise you to:

  • keep moving: Avoiding a sedentary lifestyle ensures that you are not having pre-mature deconditioning of the muscles that insert into the patella.

  • keep stretching: Making a habit out of stretching will prevent tight hip and thigh muscles from pulling the patella out of alignment.


What kind of Physical Therapist do I need?
All physical therapists are prepared through education and clinical experience to treat knee syndromes, specifically patellofemoral knee syndrome. However, you may want to consider:

  • A Physical Therapist who is experienced in treating people with orthopedic conditions. Some physical therapist's clinical experience varies from orthopedic, nervous system to vestibular and balance conditions. Other physical therapists have a clinical
    experience solely focused on orthopedic conditions.

  • A Physical Therapist that is a board-certified orthopedic specialist or has received a fellowship within orthopedic Physical Therapy. This therapist has advanced knowledge, experience, and skills that can improve the rehabilitation process for patellofemoral joint syndrome.


Schedule Today

To find more information about how to access a Physical Therapist in your area in order to help you over come your patellofemoral pain visit the home page of and click on the “find a PT” tab!


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