Knee Pain (Patellofemoral Pain) - Symptoms and Diagnosis

What are the symptoms of patellofemoral pain?

  • Pain around the knee. The pain is felt at the front of the knee, around or behind the kneecap (patella). Often, the exact site of the pain cannot be pinpointed; instead the pain is felt vaguely at the front of the knee.
  • The pain comes and goes.
  • Both knees are often affected at the same time but one is usually worse than the other.
  • The pain is typically worse when going up or, in particular, going down stairs.
  • Running, especially downhill, squatting and certain sports can all set it off - anything that leads to the patella being compressed against the lower part of the thigh bone.
  • The pain may be brought on by sitting still for long periods. For example, after going to the cinema or for a long drive, when it will be worse when starting to move about again.
  • There may be a grating or grinding feeling or a noise when the knee bends and straightens. This is called crepitus.
  • Sometimes there is puffiness or swelling around the kneecap.

How is patellofemoral pain diagnosed?

The diagnosis is made from your symptoms, the history of the problem, plus an examination of your knee.

Tests, such as X-rays or scans, cannot diagnose patellofemoral pain and are not helpful. However, sometimes they might need to be done to look for other conditions. This might be the case if your symptoms aren't the usual ones. Or they might be needed if you have injured your knee. It is very rare to have any other kind of tests for patellofemoral pain.

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  • van der Heijden RA, Lankhorst NE, van Linschoten R, et al; Exercise for treating patellofemoral pain syndrome. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2015 Jan 20 1:CD010387. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD010387.pub2.
  • Witvrouw E, Callaghan MJ, Stefanik JJ, et al; Patellofemoral pain: consensus statement from the 3rd International Patellofemoral Pain Research Retreat held in Vancouver, September 2013. Br J Sports Med. 2014 Mar 48(6):411-4. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2014-093450.
  • Callaghan MJ, Selfe J; Patellar taping for patellofemoral pain syndrome in adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012 Apr 18 4:CD006717. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD006717.pub2.
Author:
Dr Jacqueline Payne
Peer Reviewer:
Dr Colin Tidy
Document ID:
9138 (v5)
Last Checked:
08 May 2015
Next Review:
07 May 2018

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Patient Platform Limited has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.