Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome



The pain is caused by swelling in the tissue around the kneecap. This is often from overuse or poor alignment of the kneecap.

Risk Factors

This health problem is more common in women and people under the age of 40. It is also more common in people who are active, such as endurance athletes.

Other things that may raise the risk are:

  • Increasing activity levels too quickly
  • A change in running or activity surfaces
  • A problem or imbalance in the muscles that support the knee
  • Poor alignment of the kneecap
  • Focusing on a single sport, such as running



The main symptom is pain in the front of the knee. It often gets worse during impact activities. It may also happen during or after sitting too long.

The knee may also be swollen or make popping or grinding sounds.


The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done. It will focus on the knee. This is enough to make the diagnosis. A specialist referral may be needed.



The goal of treatment is to ease pain and promote movement. This may be done with:

  • Supportive care, such as resting the knee
  • Medicine to ease pain and swelling
  • A knee brace to limit the knee from moving
  • Crutches to keep weight off the knee
  • Shoe inserts to correct a knee that is not aligned the right way
  • Physical therapy to strengthen the muscles around the knee

Surgery is rarely done to treat this problem. It may be used when other methods do not help.


The risk of patellofemoral pain syndrome may be lowered by varying physical activities and slowly increasing how long and how often they are done.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.