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Written by our Human Movement Specialists

What is Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome?

Patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS) is characterized by pain around or under the knee cap (patella) primarily where it glides across the thigh bone (femur). It is also known as “Runner’s Knee” since runners frequently suffer from this condition.

Factors in Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome

Although the cause is not clearly understood, some contributing factors related to the development of PFPS include:

Muscular Imbalance and Skeletal Alignment

An imbalance of forces at the knee joint can lead to improper movement of the patella over the femur when bending or extending the lower leg. Poor foot function, weak upper leg muscles, an unstable knee joint and inappropriate footwear can also influence patellar tracking.


Activities that require repetitive lower body movements such as running, court sports, jumping and involve deep knee bending can lead to symptoms. Changes in duration, intensity and frequency of these activities can elicit knee pain.

How we help

Identifying the cause(s) of pain will determine the required treatment plan. There are several options which are effective in reducing symptoms:

1. Altering activity to minimize stress placed upon the knee joint and surrounding soft tissues. This could include reducing run/ walk distance or avoiding squats and lunges.

2. The application of ice after activity may help to provide relief by reducing swelling and managing pain.

3. Stretches and exercises as prescribed by a health care professional can improve strength in weak muscles and enhance coordination of the muscles supporting the knee joint.

4. Stabilizing the knee joint and improving foot function can relieve pain. Knee taping, bracing and/ or custom foot orthotics assist in the repositioning of the patella and facilitate ideal knee alignment.

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