Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome: Symptoms - Causes and Treatment

Patellofemoral pain syndrome is often referred as “runner’s knee.” It is a common complaint amongst athletes and sportsmen that perform running or jumping activities. It is frequently described as pain behind the kneecap, particularly where the patella articulates with the femur. The pain usually becomes more intense when walking, using stairs, sitting for long periods, running, or squatting. Luckily, rest and ice offer viable treatment to ease the condition. In some cases, physiotherapy is necessary to guide recovery and alleviate pain.


What are the symptoms of Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome?

A dull, aching pain in the front of your knee is a key indicator of patellofemoral pain syndrome. The pain may increase in intensity with the following actions:

  • Sitting with a bent knee for a long duration
  • Kneeling or squatting
  • Walking up or down stairs
Woman having knee Pain

Causes of Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome

Patellofemoral pain syndrome has various causes, including:

  • Overuse of the Knee. Repetitive running or jumping can create stress on the knee joint. It can also cause soreness and tenderness around the knee, leading to patellofemoral pain syndrome.
  • Weak Muscles. Patellofemoral pain typically happens when the muscles around your knees and hips are not properly aligned with your kneecap. For instance, inward rotation of the knee during squatting has been closely linked to patellofemoral pain syndrome.
  • Injury. Kneecap damage, such as a fracture or a dislocation, may cause pain - again, leading to patellofemoral pain syndrome.
  • Knee Surgery. Surgical repair of the anterior cruciate ligament, via implantation of your own patellar tendon, increases the risk of patellofemoral pain syndrome.


Treatment for Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome

A variety of treatment options exist for patellofemoral pain syndrome. Treatment options include:

  • Cold Compress - Ice or cold compress is an effective treatment to reduce pain and swelling. Cold compress devices can be applied for at least 20 minutes every 2 to 4 hours.

  • Medications - Pain reliever and anti-inflammatory medications, like topical gels or arnica creams, may help reduce your pain and swelling. Other options include ibuprofen, naproxen, or acetaminophen.

  • Protection-  A physiotherapist usually recommends kinesiology tape to help ease pain and to help with joint realignment. The patellofemoral taping is also an effective pain reliever. It may offer more support, as well as make you more aware to be cautious with the affected joint.

  • Knee Support - There are many supportive devices and knee braces available that may help improve your pain levels. A supportive brace can be used in combination with taping or strapping.

  • Surgical Procedures - If nonsurgical treatments aren't effective, your doctor might suggest surgical methods, such as an arthroscopy. Surgery may be necessary to realign the kneecap. However, this procedure is usually only applicable in severe cases.
Knee Therapy

How to Prevent Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome

There are numerous methods that can reduce your risk of knee pain and help you avoid it altogether. These preventative tactics include:

  • Increasing Knee Strength. Strong thigh muscles and hip abductor help maintain balance and strength around the knee joint. These muscles provide support and stability to the knee.

  • Proper Technique and Form. A physiotherapist can help provide guidance on strength and flexibility exercises to develop proper lower body strength and keep the knee tracking properly. A physiotherapist may focus on correcting the inward movement of the knee when squatting, jumping, landing, or stepping down or up on a set of stairs. Techniques and proper form may then help prevent recurrence or patellofemoral pain syndrome from happening altogether.

  • Maintain a Healthy Weight. If you're overweight, losing excess pounds may relieve pressure on your knees.

  • Warm Up. Before exercise, always make sure to warm up with at least a few minutes of light cardio. Choose something that increases your heart rate and gets the blood flowing.
  • Stretch. Stretching improves flexibility which may aid in preventing injuries and pain.

  • Gradually Increase Intensity. Doing too much, too soon may overload your joints - causing pain and possibly patellofemoral pain syndrome. Slowly and gradually increase your intensity, duration, reps, and sets.
  • Wear Proper Footwear. Make sure you are wearing the proper shoes for the activity you are performing. They should be comfortable and offer good support and shock absorption. Orthotics and other shoe inserts may be necessary depending on your biomechanics. A physiotherapist can help you determine if you need orthotics or not.

Woman doing warm up before exercise

Our Recommendation


Knee Braces

Knee braces offer support as the knee heals or is properly realigned via exercise and manual therapy. Knee braces may also be used in sport as a protective measure.

At Back To Sport, we have various knee braces to suit your needs. For patellofemoral pain syndrome, we recommend the Mueller Jumper’s Knee Strap - or for more support, the Mueller Self-Adjusting Knee Stabilizer.


Tape offers supports, as well as biofeedback to make you more aware of your affected limb. At Back To Sport, we recommend the Gripit - Knee Pre-Cut Tape or the Gripit - Kinesiology Tape 50mm x 5m. Our tapes come in multiple colours so you can choose your style.

Cold Therapy

Ice devices can help alleviate your pain and reduce swelling. Make sure to only apply the ice for 15-20 minutes at a time, leaving 45 minutes in between ice applications. Ensure that you place a cloth between the ice and your skin for protection.

Back To Sport has a variety of ice devices to choose from. Some of our devices come with a compression option. Compress can further help reduce swelling or fluid build-up. For patellofemoral pain syndrome, we recommend the Hyperice Knee Compression Device, the TalarMade Knee Cold Compression Therapy device, or the Polar Ice Knee Wrap.


The information contained in this article is for general information purposes only. The indications provided are not a prescription and cannot substitute the recommendation of a health practitioner. We recommend that you seek the advice of your GP, physiotherapist or health practitioner before buying any item on Back To Sport.

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