Author: Courney Erickson-Adams, MD —
It’s often referred to as “runner’s knee,” since it’s a condition that athletes who participate in certain sports may develop. However, patellofemoral knee pain can also affect individuals who’ve never laced up a pair of running shoes. Here, we’ll discuss the characteristics of patellofemoral knee pain, what causes it, how it’s diagnosed, and what can be done about it.
What is patellofemoral knee pain?
Characterized by pain at the front of the knee and around the kneecap—aka the patella—this condition occurs more often than you may think. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS) is “one of the most common causes of anterior knee pain encountered in the outpatient setting in adolescents and adults younger than 60 years.” A hallmark sign of PFPS is an increase in pain in or around the front of the knee when it’s flexed during activities in which an individual bears weight—such as participating in certain sports, going down the stairs, or squatting. Sitting for long periods with the knees bent can also make it worse.
What causes it?
Individuals who develop PFPS are often active, may be long-distance runners, and/or may have increased their activities levels too quickly. Women are twice as likely to develop PFPS and individuals who are overweight are also at increased risk. There are a number of factors that can contribute to PFPS, including:
How is it diagnosed and treated?
PFPS can usually be diagnosed by your doctor through a patient history and exam to help rule out other conditions that may have similar symptoms. For the same reason, additional tests may be ordered, such as x-rays, a CT scan, or an MRI.
The most common approach to treating PFPS is through the use of conservative measures, including: