Patellofemoral pain syndrome

This information may be useful for those who have been diagnosed with patellofemoral pain syndrome.  People who are experiencing new or ongoing symptoms should contact their healthcare professional.  

Read about advice on dealing with a knee problem

What is patellofemoral pain syndrome?  

Patellofemoral pain syndrome is a condition that causes pain behind or around the kneecap.

It's a leading cause of chronic knee pain, which 1 in 3 adults may experience at some point in their life. 

What are the symptoms of patellofemoral pain syndrome?   

These can vary from person to person.

People may experience some or all of these symptoms including:

  • pain beneath or around the kneecap especially on climbing up and down stairs, kneeling and squatting.                     
  • clicking and grinding in the knee.  
  • giving way of the knee or sensation of this.  
  • pain after maintaining a sitting position for a period of time, such as driving or at the cinema. 
  • swelling.  
  • tight feeling in the calves and thighs.

What causes patellofemoral pain syndrome?  

The causes can vary between individuals, but it's often as a result of altered loading of the patella (kneecap). 

The main contributing factors can be:  

  • weakness in the buttocks and thighs.
  • tightness in the hamstrings and calf. 
  • sudden changes in activities.

Other factors could be:

  • repeated kneeling or bending of the knee.
  • sitting or driving for a prolonged period of time.
  • being overweight. 

What is the best treatment?  

The strongest evidence suggests that strengthening any weak or underactive muscles and stretching any short or tight muscles is very important.

An important step in your recovery is identifying which activities are causing or increasing your pain. Modifying those activities can help to reduce symptoms, however, it's important to make sure you remain active.

Modifying your activities may include:

  • reducing the amount of kneeling
  • take regular breaks while doing aggravating activities
  • reduce the amount of time you sit still

Read more about exercises for patellofemoral pain syndrome

Read more about how to stay active

Pain treatments

Pain medication - this can help you move more comfortably, which can help your recovery

More about taking painkillers


A knee problem can sometimes mean you need to take some time off work to help recovery. How long you're off will depend on the nature of your condition and your role at work.

You do not need to be symptom free before you consider returning to work. Continuing to go to work, or returning to work as soon as is possible for you, will help your recovery. Gradually getting back to your normal daily activities can help to build up your strength and stamina levels.

Help and support 

Following this advice, you should see gradual improvements over time.

If your patellofemoral pain syndrome hasn’t improved within 6 weeks, or it's got worse, after following this advice, talk to a healthcare professional about your symptoms.

Read about how to access MSK services

When dealing with any health condition it's important to also look after your mental wellbeing as this can impact your recovery.

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Source: MSK Expert Panel

Last updated:
17 June 2023