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Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome - Runner's Knee Treatment

Patellofemoral pain syndrome is a painful condition that occurs in the front of your knee. This condition involves your patella, more commonly referred to as your kneecap. Patellofemoral pain syndrome, may be the result of damage to the soft tissues that cushion and support your kneecap or damage to the cartilage on the underside of your kneecap. Here are a few common causes of this condition:

  • Movements which put heavy, repeated stress on your knee (running, jumping, squatting
  • Change of exercise routine
  • Change of shoes
  • Poor training techniques/ equipment

At Barrington Orthopedic Specialists, our highly-experienced, expert sports medicine specialists can help you achieve the relief you need from patellofemoral pain syndrome. This condition can be treated through noninvasive treatments such as rest, medication, or orthotics, and in severe cases, surgery. Our team will work alongside you to develop a personalized treatment plan that will relieve your pain and restore proper functionality to your knee joint.

If you’re struggling with knee pain, we are here to help. Schedule your first consultation with the team at Barrington Orthopedic Specialists today. If you’re in an emergency situation, visit the Immediate Care Clinic at our Schaumburg, IL location.

Patella femoral Pain Syndrome FAQ

What Causes Patellafemoral Pain Syndrome? 

The knee is a complex structure and is very sensitive.

A number of factors can contribute to runner’s knee, including:

  • Malalignment of the kneecap
  • Complete or partial dislocation
  • Injury
  • Tightness, imbalance, or weakness of thigh muscles
  • Flat feet
  • Patellofemoral pain may be the result of irritation of the soft tissues around the front of the knee.
  • Strained tendons are fairly common in athletes.

Other contributing factors to patellofemoral pain include overuse, muscle imbalance and inadequate stretching.

Pain that begins in another part of the body, such as the back or hip, may cause pain in the knee (referred pain).

In some people with runner’s knee, the kneecap is out of alignment. If so, vigorous activities can cause excessive stress and wear on the cartilage of the kneecap.

This can lead to softening and breakdown of the cartilage on the patella (chondromalacia patella) and cause pain in the underlying bone and irritation of the joint lining.

What Are The Symptoms of Patellafemoral Pain Syndrome?

  • A dull, aching pain under or around the front of the kneecap (patella) where it connects with the lower end of the thighbone (femur).
  • Pain occurs when walking up or down stairs, kneeling, squatting, and sitting with a bent knee for a long period of time.

What Are The Treatment Options For Patellafemoral Pain Syndrome?

Treatment depends upon the particular problem causing the knee pain, and is usually nonsurgical.

First Aid

Stop doing any activity that causes knee pain. This probably means stopping any running or jumping.

Use the RICE formula:

  • Rest. Avoid putting weight on the painful knee. Some athletes temporarily switch to a non-weight-bearing activity, such as swimming.
  • Ice. Apply cold packs or ice wrapped in a towel for short periods of time, several times a day.
  • Compression. Use an elastic bandage such as a simple knee sleeve with the kneecap cut out that fits snugly without causing pain.
  • Elevation. Keep the knee raised up higher than your heart.
  • Take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as aspirin or ibuprofen if you need more pain relief. If your knee does not improve with rest, see your doctor for a complete medical evaluation and diagnosis. Runner’s knee usually gets better with early treatment and reconditioning.

Nonsurgical Treatment

After resting the knee until the pain and swelling go down, you may need reconditioning to regain full range of motion, strength, power, endurance, speed, agility, and coordination.

Your doctor may prescribe an exercise program to normalize the flexibility and strength of thigh muscles, or recommend cross-training exercises that emphasize stretching the lower extremities. Your doctor will tell you when you may gradually resume running and other athletic activities.

Other nonsurgical treatments involve taping the kneecap or using a special brace for knee support during sports participation. Special shoe inserts (orthotics) may sometimes be prescribed and may help relieve the pain.

Surgical Treatment

When needed, surgical treatments include:


The surgeon removes fragments of damaged kneecap cartilage through a small incision, using a pencil-sized instrument called an arthroscope.


The surgeon opens the knee structure and realigns the kneecap, reducing the abnormal pressure on cartilage and supporting structures around the knee.