by Steven Kiak, SPT

treatment for Patella Femoral Pain Syndrome (PFPS)

What is Patella Femoral Pain Syndrome?

Patella Femoral Pain Syndrome is an umbrella term describing pain on the front or anterior aspect of the knee from the patellofemoral joint, a joint formed by the Femur (Thigh bone) and the Patella (Kneecap). PFPS is a commonly reported musculoskeletal condition and knee dysfunction seen by physical therapists. Treatment for Patella Femoral Pain Syndrome can involve a number of types of therapies.


PFPS can occur from overuse/overloading of the joint, muscular weakness or muscle imbalances, or even dysfunction related to movement.

PFPS has been reported as one of the most common running overuse injuries. When the knee extends (straightens) and flexes (bends) the patella glides through a groove in the femur known as the Trochlear groove. When the patella isn’t gliding or tracking correctly through the trochlear groove it can often lead to pain.

  • Poor tracking can be caused by muscle imbalances from the quadriceps muscle or even weakness related to the hip joint. The hip joint is closely related to the knee and can affect the alignment of the knee. It can also alter how the knee functions.
  • A weak core or abdominals can be related to less stability of the hip and be associated with PFPS.
  • In addition, tight muscles such as the calves and hamstrings can be related to PFPS.

Signs and symptoms consist of generalized knee pain on the front or anterior aspect of the knee. The pain may be worse with squatting, running, prolonged sitting (theater sign), ascending/descending stairs, and wearing heels.


If experiencing some of the signs and symptoms described above, a licensed physical therapist can provide a thorough and detailed examination. During the examination, the physical therapist may look at your patellar alignment and assess the movement of the patella. If joint effusion or swelling is present your range of motion of multiple joints (Hip, Knee, and Ankle) have the potential to be affected. Your physical therapist may continue to asses for the cause of the pain by assessing various muscle lengths, your ability to stand on a single leg, your strength, and your gait or mechanics of walking.

Treatment for Patella Femoral Pain Syndrome

Treatment for Patella Femoral Pain Syndrome is often multifactorial, but will begin by decreasing the pain and inflammation around the knee. Once the pain is controlled treatment for PFPS involves addressing the identified impairments found in the examination provided by a physical therapist. Some treatment techniques involve stretching muscles that were identified as tight, such as the calves and hamstrings. Other interventions include strengthening specific muscles around the knee, hip, or ankle to correct any muscular imbalances and address any alignment dysfunctions related to those joints. Electrotherapy may be used to aid in decreasing pain, improving strength, and retraining a muscle to properly function. Core and balance training are often involved in the treatment process to ensure stability at the knee joint and allow patients to return to performing specific tasks.

Upstate NY Therapy Clinics

Connect with our experienced staff to discuss how we can help relieve Patella Femoral Pain Syndrome knee pain in runners and athletes. With physical therapy clinics located in Latham, Malta and Queensbury NY, we provide sports therapy to runners, athletes and all types of physical therapy to patients in the Albany, Clifton Park, Saratoga, Ballston Spa, Burnt Hills, Wilton, Queensbury and Glens Falls regions. Make an appointment at any of our locations by calling 518-289-5242.