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What Is Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome?

Patellofemoral pain syndrome describes pain in the front of the knee and around the patella or kneecap. It is sometimes called runner's knee or jumper's knee because it is common in people who participate in sports—particularly women and young adults. However patellofemoral pain syndrome can occur in non-athletes, as well.

The pain and stiffness patellofemoral pain syndrome causes can make it difficult to:

  • climb stairs,
  • kneel down, and
  • perform other everyday activities.

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What Causes Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome?

Patellofemoral pain syndrome occurs when nerves sense pain in the soft tissues and bone around the kneecap. These soft tissues include the tendons, the fat pad beneath the patella, and the synovial tissue that lines the knee joint.

Chondromalacia Patella

In some cases of patellofemoral pain, a condition called chondromalacia patella is present.

Chondromalacia patella is the softening and breakdown of the articular cartilage (cartilage that covers the ends of bones) on the underside of the kneecap.

There are no nerves in articular cartilage—so damage to the cartilage itself cannot directly cause pain. It can, however, lead to inflammation and pain in the underlying bone.

Treatment for Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome

As with other knee conditions, the treatments your doctor might first recommend are:

  • lifestyle changes,
  • physical therapy,
  • bracing,
  • medications, and
  • injections.


Your doctor may recommend surgery if your knee pain causes disability and is not relieved with nonsurgical treatment.

If your doctor recommends surgery, there are some risks and possible complications. Your doctor will discuss the options with you if they recommend surgery.

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