Patellofemoral pain – what is it?

December 2021

Patellofemoral pain is the name given to generalised knee pain that you experience behind your knee cap also known as your patella. This type of pain can often be difficult to pin point and may occur during various activities such as walking, running, stepping down stairs or standing after sitting for a long time.

Patellofemoral pain is one of the most common causes of knee pain in both young athletes and the elderly population. It may occur for a variety of reasons such as poor alignment of the kneecap, weakness in the leg and glute muscles and tightness of the hamstrings and hip flexors

Treatment for this condition will be different for each person, however current research by Dr. Rich Willy does provide treatment guidelines for physicians to follow.

Phase 1 of these guidelines is to OFFLOAD:

During this time your physiotherapist may advise you to modify the activities that cause you pain in order to give the structures of the knee some time to heal. During this time your physio may recommended using some ice and NSAIDs for pain management. Dr Catherine Logan a sports orthopaedic surgeon recommends the use of Mcconnell taping during this offload phase to further assist with pain reduction.

After we OFFLOAD and allow pain to settle we need to REHABILITATE:

Your physio will implement a strengthening program which will be aimed at your individual needs and target the cause of your knee pain. Exercises including squats, clams, single leg squats and knee extensions have been found to have the greatest reductions in knee pain. Your exercise regime will also incorporate stretching of tight muscles. As your treatment progresses exercises will become more challenging and aim at increasing your muscular control. These exercises will be similar to movements you do at sport or work.

The final phase in Dr Richard Willy’s guidelines is to RELOAD:

This is the slow progression back into sport and everyday activities. During this time you may have flare ups in your pain in which using the strategies from the above phases maybe helpful!

As treatments for this condition may vary, as do healing times it is important you make an appointment with a physiotherapist to ensure optimal healing.