Please note: This information was current at the time of publication. But medical information is always changing, and some information given here may be out of date. For regularly updated information on a variety of health topics, please visit, the AAFP patient education website.

Information from Your Family Doctor

Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome


Am Fam Physician. 2007 Jan 15;75(2):204.

  See related article on patellofemoral pain syndrome.

What is patellofemoral pain syndrome?

Patellofemoral (pa-tell-oh-FEE-mor-al) pain syndrome (or PFPS) is pain at the front of your knee. It may happen when the kneecap (or patella) moves differently than usual.

What are the symptoms of PFPS?

If you have PFPS, you may feel pain behind or underneath your kneecap. The pain may be in one knee or in both. It may get worse if you run, go up or down stairs, or sit with your knee bent for a long time (like in a movie theater or when driving a car).

How is it treated?

It depends on the patient. Usually, putting ice on your knee, changing your activities, and following a physical therapy program works best. This type of program may include exercises to make your muscles stronger and more flexible. Taping the knee or using shoe insoles can be helpful for some people. It may take weeks or months of treatment for the pain to go away.

Will I need surgery?

Most people with PFPS do not need to have surgery.

Will the pain come back?

PFPS can come back. Talk to your doctor about what might have caused the pain so that you can stop it from happening again. Don't change your activities suddenly. Keep your knee joint strong and flexible. Replace your running shoes regularly (about every 250 to 500 miles of use) so they don't get worn out.

This handout is provided to you by your family doctor and the American Academy of Family Physicians. Other health-related information is available from the AAFP online at

This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.


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