Patello femoral pain

Tad Nishino

Jake Pizzatti

Knee pain often affects athletes both social and competitive but can also arise in non-sporting populations. Pain felt in and around the kneecap is called “Patellofemoral Pain”. It is an umbrella term used for pain arising from the kneecap joint (patellofemoral joint) or soft tissue surrounding the joint. It is often an overload injury which may arise from change in activity or increased training load (training volume or increased speed of running), change in training surfaces or footwear but can also occur after direct trauma to the patella or patellofemoral joint.


Patellofemoral pain is located at the front of the knee / behind the kneecap and usually builds up gradually over a few days to weeks. It may start out with pain only felt with aggravating activities but if ignored and untreated, it may become sore with minor loads or at rest.


Your physiotherapist will look at finding the factors that led to the onset of Patellofemoral Pain. That would include looking at your typical training schedule and identifying any changes that may explain for the increased load put on your knee, plus assessing the lengths and strengths of your leg muscles and identifying biomechanical factors that may have led to overloading the patellofemoral joint via malalignment of the patella. Often the flaws that lead to overload at the knee stem from weakness in the biomechanical chain from hip/gluteal and/or abdominal muscles to the foot/calves.


In the short term, patellofemoral pain can be relieved with massage, relative rest and gradual return to activity but if painful activities are unavoidable (e.g. walking, stairs at home or work, the main race of the year or major football grudge-match) taping techniques may reduce the severity of the pain.


Medium to long term management includes rehabilitation, focusing on strength, endurance and for runners/athletes speed and impact. The exercise program is targeted to address the specific flaws in technique and often include knee and hip/gluteal components along with “core strengthening”. These phases are effective for managing pain as well as returning to usual activities and can also be effective at breaking the cycle of getting niggles and injuries in the lower limb.


If you experience knee joint pain, there may be a variety of structures and contributing factors involved. Your physio will perform a thorough assessment to establish what the cause of your pain is and advise you how to progress safely. That way you can return to your normal activities without pain and reduce the risk of re-injury.

If you would like to have your knee troubles looked at by a physiotherapist and arrange and appointment, please call (07) 3211 8775 or click here to book online.