Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome

Condition Basics

What is patellofemoral pain syndrome?

Patellofemoral pain syndrome is pain in the front of the knee. It frequently occurs in teenagers, manual laborers, and athletes. It sometimes is caused by wearing down, roughening, or softening of the cartilage under the kneecap.

What causes it?

Patellofemoral pain syndrome may be caused by overuse, injury, excess weight, a kneecap that is not properly aligned (patellar tracking disorder), or changes under the kneecap.

What are the symptoms?

The main symptom of patellofemoral pain syndrome is knee pain, especially when you are sitting with bent knees, squatting, jumping, or using the stairs (especially going down stairs). You may also experience occasional knee buckling, in which the knee suddenly and unexpectedly gives way and does not support your body weight. It is also common to have a catching, popping, or grinding sensation when you are walking or when you are moving your knee.

How is it diagnosed?

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and past health and will do a physical exam. You might have an imaging test, such as an X-ray or MRI. These tests show the tissues inside your knee. This can help the doctor rule out other possible causes of your symptoms.

How is patellofemoral pain syndrome treated?

Your doctor can recommend treatments to reduce symptoms. For example, over-the-counter pain medicine, such as ibuprofen, can decrease swelling and pain. A physical therapist can teach you exercises to stretch and strengthen your legs. Taping or using a knee brace can stabilize the kneecap. If these don't help, you and your doctor may choose surgery.

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