Do you get knee pain? A very common cause of knee pain that we see in the clinic, is due to a condition called “patello-femoral (PF) knee pain”. Read on the learn what this means, and what to do if you have it.

What does it feel like?

Patellofemoral pain usually involves a gradual onset of pain in or around the kneecap. People tend to notice pain when going up and down stairs, squatting, kneeling, hopping or running. It can be sometimes associated ‘grating’ sensation and pain with prolonged sitting.

Why does it happen?

Patellofemoral pain, is mainly due to the kneecap not tracking smoothly through the groove it runs in at the front of the knee. Instead of the patella running in the centre of the groove the it runs over towards the outer side of the groove. This results in pain and premature wear at the patellofemoral joint.

Abnormalities of the muscles around the knee may result in the kneecap not tracking smoothly. For example, tightness of the outside thigh muscles (which pull the kneecap outwards) is often accompanied by weakness of the inner thigh muscle. This results in the kneecap being pulled towards the outside of the leg.

Other biomechanics factors of the hip and foot may also contribute to the malalignment of the kneecap. These factors can include poor foot posture, decreased hip control as well as knock knees or bow legs. When poor biomechanics are repeated with each step of your walking or running pattern, that repeatedly may contribute to malalignmentof the patella and patellofemoral pain.

Often the pain develops as an overuse injury seen in long-distance runners or cyclists, or it may be initiated by a twisting injury to the knee.

Patellofemoral pain syndrome is more common during adolescence, because the long bones are growing faster than the muscles, tendons and ligaments, putting abnormal stresses on the joints. Active children who do not stretch the appropriate muscles are predisposed to patellar malalignment.


Treatment – What can I do about it?

Current research suggests that physiotherapy intervention is a very effective short and long-term solution for patellofemoral pain.

The aim of treatment is to reduce pain and inflammation in the short-term and correct the cause of the patella malalignment to prevent it returning in the long-term.

Treatment strategies may include ice, taping the kneecap and avoid any activities that exacerbate the pain in the short term.

In the longer term, stretching and strengthening exercises for the leg muscles are important for full recovery. These exercises will be specific to each person as we are all made up differently. The physiotherapists at our clinic are trained to assess your biomechanics and movement patterns to best prescribe a program specific to your needs. It is important to do these exercises on a daily basis to maximise the chance of recovery, which will generally take about 6 weeks.