Active person with knee pain

Runner's Knee (Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome)


What is Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome?

Patellofemoral pain syndrome is a broad term to describe pain in the front of the knee and around the patella or kneecap. Runner's knee is more likely to occur in females and athletes. It can also affect both children and adults.  


  • Painful knee in the knee joint particularly at the front of the knee, around and under the patella.
  • Tenderness along the inside border of the kneecap. 
  • Swelling often after activities.
  • Pain is more notable when walking up and down hills or sitting for long periods of time.
  • Possible catching, popping, clicking, grinding, or cracking sound when moving the knee.


Patellofemoral pain syndrome may be caused by overuse, injury, excess weight, a kneecap that is not properly aligned, or changes under the kneecap.


  • Physical exam.
  • X-rays and possible further imaging, such as MRI.


With a goal of decreasing pain, treatment might look like:

  •  Exercises (possible physical therapy) to improve the glide of the kneecap:
    • Strengthen muscles in the front of the thigh.
    • Stretch muscles in the back of the thigh.
    • Correct the imbalance between the muscles in the front of the thighs compared to the muscles in the back of the thigh if needed.
  • Ice and elevation after activities.
  • Over-the-counter medication.
  • Knee braces are sometimes recommended.


  • Maintaining a healthy weight.
  • Wearing appropriate shoes for your activities.
  • Stretching and warming up before activity.
  • Increasing athletic training intensity gradually.
  • Avoiding activities that have hurt your knee in the past.

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