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Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome: Overview

     Are you a passionate hooper facing knee discomfort during activities like squatting, using stairs, or sitting for extended periods? Patellofemoral pain syndrome might be the culprit. In this blog post, we’ll explore the key information you need to know regarding this ailment, shedding light on its symptoms, causes, and potential treatment options.

Understanding Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome

     Patellofemoral pain syndrome revolves around discomfort surrounding the kneecap, or patellofemoral joint. Visualizing the knee’s anatomy, this condition arises when increased pressure is applied to the patellofemoral joint, often resulting in pain during various movements. Whether you’re navigating stairs, sitting for long durations, or engaging in squats, this knee joint is actively involved.

Common Signs & Symptoms


Recognizing the signs & symptoms of patellofemoral pain syndrome is crucial for seeking appropriate medical attention. Some of these activities include:

  1. Going Up & Down Stairs
  2. Prolonged Sitting (>20-30 Minutes)
  3. Weight Bearing Leg Exercises (Squatting, Lunging, Step-Ups, Etc.)


  1. Achy & General/Diffuse
  2. Pain Near & Around the Kneecap
  3. Referred Pain to The Side Near The Distal IT Band
  4. Referred Pain to The Patellar Tendon
  5. Referred Pain to The Back of The Knee

3 Primary Causes of Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome:

1. Increased Stress & Pressure at the Patellofemoral Joint:

     Activities such as squats and lunges increase stress and compression at the patellofemoral joint, especially as you get deeper (more flexion). If you have inadequate strength and/or mobility, and improper form, this will increase the demand on that joint. As a result, gradual joint irritation and discomfort will develop over time.

2. Kneecap Mobility Issues

     The kneecap is designed to have mobility in all directions naturally, and sits and moves within a groove during weight bearing exercises. However, excessive kneecap movement during weight bearing exercises, could cause the kneecap to track outside and rub against the groove. As a result, that consistent rubbing can irritate the joint over time.

3. Hip & Ankle Impairments

     The knee joint is inherently a stable joint and primarily gets most of its motion in the sagittal plane, or moving forward and backward. It has some movement into rotation and side-to-side, but it is minimal and is relatively stable in those planes. Moreover, the knee joint gets its stability in those planes from the hip and ankle (the above and below joints). Improper hip and/or ankle strength, mobility, or control could lead to excessive movement at the knee. As a result, this could lead to poor kneecap tracking during activities and irritate the patellofemoral joint over time.

Differential Diagnoses:

While patellofemoral pain is a common culprit for knee discomfort, ruling out other potential issues is essential. Some of these conditions include:

  1. Jumper’s Knee
  2. Fat Pad Impingement
  3. Osgood-Schlatter Disease (in younger individuals)
  4. Meniscus Pathologies

     There are many other knee conditions, but these are the more common ones in basketball that should be considered. This is important because they have similar signs and symptoms as patellofemoral pain syndrome, and people are often misdiagnosed. As a result, you may not recover as quickly or fully recover because the treatment and rehab will be different depending on the diagnosis.

Rehab & Treatment Options:

If you do have patellofemoral pain syndrome, the treatment approach would focus on these general factors:

  • Improving Ankle Mobility (especially dorsiflexion range of motion)
  • Increase Flexibility of Any Limited Musculature
  • Strengthening Your Lower Leg Muscles (Hip, Knee & Ankle)
  • Static, Dynamic & Functional Stability/Balance Training
  • Correcting Any Improper Movement Patterns

     We purposely leave out specific and provide a general outline/guideline because each individual is different. Consequently, your rehab program should be individualized to meet your current limitations and impairments to reach your specific goals.


     In conclusion, understanding patellofemoral pain syndrome will empower you to effectively address and manage knee discomfort, and be able to discuss your plan of care. If you resonate with the described symptoms, seeking professional advice is crucial. This blog was meant to shed light on the basics of patellofemoral pain syndrome, provide insights to help you overcome challenges and continue enjoying your favorite activities. Also, check out this YouTube video for an overview of patellofemoral pain syndrome

Closing Remark

     For a deeper understanding, explore resources on patellofemoral pain syndrome. Remember, the information provided is for educational purposes only. Seeking medical attention is crucial for personalized advice and treatment. For further questions or guidance, consult with healthcare professionals or send up an email, Hoop on, and may your journey be pain-free!


Witvrouw, E., Werner, S., Mikkelsen, C., Van Tiggelen, D., Vanden Berghe, L., & Cerulli, G. (2005). Clinical classification of patellofemoral pain syndrome: guidelines for non-operative treatment. Knee Surgery, Sports Traumatology, Arthroscopy, 13(2), 122-130.

Petersen, W., Ellermann, A., Gösele-Koppenburg, A., Best, R., Rembitzki, I. V., Brüggemann, G. P., … & Liebau, C. (2014). Patellofemoral pain syndrome. Knee Surgery, Sports Traumatology, Arthroscopy, 22(10), 2264-2274

Nunes, G. S., Stapait, E. L., Kirsten, M. H., & de Noronha, M. (2013). Santos GM. Clinical test for diagnosis of patellofemoral pain syndrome: systematic review with meta-analysis. Physical Therapy in Sport, 14(1), 54-59.

Powers, C. M. (2010). Rehabilitation of patellofemoral joint disorders: a critical review. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, 40(6), 303-320..

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Dr. Gabriel Ignacio PT, DPT, OCS, TPI

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Dr. Marco Lopez PT, DPT, CSCS

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