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What is patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS)?

Scott D. Martin, MD
Orthopedic Surgery
Patellofemoral pain syndrome is characterized by pain in the front of the knee, under and around the kneecap. The term is often used interchangeably with "runner's knee" or "anterior knee pain." The term "runner's knee" is particularly apt; patellofemoral pain syndrome accounts for 16% to 25% of all injuries in runners. But patellofemoral pain syndrome is not restricted to athletes. In fact, it is the most common diagnosis given to patients who visit their doctor's office complaining of knee pain. The condition is more common in women over 40 and in physically active teenage girls.

Symptoms of patellofemoral pain syndrome include:
  • Pain in the front and center of the knee during and after physical activities, especially those that repeatedly put weight on a bent leg (running, step aerobics, basketball)
  • Pain from prolonged sitting ("moviegoer's sign")
  • Knee puffiness after activity

Patellofemoral syndrome is an irritation of the tissue around and under the patella (knee cap). This irritation may be caused by weakness of the quadriceps and hip muscles, which allows the patella to move outside of its normal groove in the knee. Patellofemoral syndrome is characterized by pain around the patella (knee cap), pain with running, jumping, or stairs, and pain after sitting.

This answer provided for NATA by Loras College.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.