Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome

Man running on beach with runners knee

Don’t let runner’s knee get away from you!

What is patellofemoral pain syndrome?

If you’re a runner or do a lot of running and jumping as part of your sport, you may have experienced patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS), also known as runner’s knee. Although this condition tends to affect people who participate in sports, people who are less active can also develop this condition.

PFPS is experienced as pain in front of the knee, which is sometimes felt behind the kneecap. Unlike other knee conditions, PFPS is not linked to a specific structure in the knee, that is, PFPS is not due to a problem with a tendon, ligament, bone or other tissue. When feeling around the knee, it can also be difficult to pinpoint a specific site of pain, and many may not experience pain when poking or prodding the knee at all.

What does PFPS feel like?

People with PFPS usually mention the following:

  • Pain with “knees over toes” movements (e.g., squatting, stairs, slopes)
  • Pain is felt behind the kneecap
  • Pain came on gradually
  • Pain only with activity

For active individuals, many tend to report an increase in activity leading up to the start of their knee pain. This can come in the form of running longer distances, running at a faster pace, or doing more training sessions in a week. Starting to run for the first time may also contribute to knee pain, as it can be a big change in activity for some!

Should I get a scan?

Getting a scan for PFPS is not necessary. Since PFPS is not related to a specific structure in the knee, a scan is unlikely to pick up any findings that will help with the treatment of your knee pain. We do not recommend getting a scan for your knee unless your healthcare provider suspects a different or more serious reason for your knee pain.

What should I do?

If you think you have PFPS, you should see a physiotherapist! A thorough physical assessment and discussion around your training loads and activity will give us a good understanding of why you have knee pain, which will help us formulate a treatment plan that’s tailored to your needs.

What does treatment involve?

Activity modification, along with hip and knee strengthening, have been found to be effective ways of treating PFPS (Nascimento et al., 2018). Rather than completely stopping your usual activities, your physiotherapist will work with you to find alternative ways of staying active. This will help to minimise irritation of the knee and prevent worsening of your knee pain.

Participating in an exercise-based treatment program is also recommended. Depending on the results of your physical assessment, your physiotherapist may recommend hip or knee exercises (or a combination of both) to help strengthen the muscles around the joints.

Depending on your sport or running experience, your physiotherapist may also discuss other strategies with you, such as:

  • Running gait training to optimise your running gait
  • Load management to ensure you are not overtraining
  • Footwear to optimise biomechanics

Our physiotherapists also work closely with our podiatrist and may suggest a referral for biomechanical analysis. Sometimes, there may be issues related to the position of the foot and ankle whilst running or moving that can contribute to your knee pain. Addressing PFPS from multiple angles means that no stone is left unturned, so you can get back to what you love doing more quickly!

I think I have runner’s knee – what should I do?

If you’ve been putting up with pain in your knee, get in touch with us! Call us on 1300 738 609 or book online to see one of our physiotherapists to see how we can help you find your Solution.

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Frequently Asked Questions