Patella-Femoral Dysfunction (Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome)

Patella-Femoral Dysfunction or Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome

Patella-femoral image.

Patella-femoral dysfunction is pain in the front of your knee when your kneecap (patella) does not glide how it should at the end of your thigh bone (femur).

How Do I Know I May Have It?

Patella-femoral dysfunction is often seen in teens and is more common in females.  You might have this if you have pain in the front or back of your knees.  It is often worse with:

  • Running and jumping sports
  • Sitting for a long time
  • Going up stairs

How Is It Diagnosed?

Your doctor will do an exam to see if you have patella-femoral dysfunction.  It is vital to make sure there are no other problems causing the pain.

What Causes Patella-Femoral Dysfunction?

Patella-femoral dysfunction in children occurs for these reasons: 

  • Weak muscle in the upper thigh 
  • Weak hips
  • Weak core muscles (stomach and back muscles) 
  • Flat feet

How Do I Treat Patella-Femoral Dysfunction?

Patella-femoral dysfunction is most often treated with:

  • Exercises (physical therapy) to improve the glide of the kneecap:
    • Strengthen muscles in front of the thigh
    • Stretch muscles in the back of the thigh
    • Correct the imbalance between the muscles in the front of the thighs compared to the muscles in the back of the thigh if needed
  • Ice
  • Medicine or knee braces are sometimes needed
  • Shoe inserts can help correct flat feet and reduce knee pain

What Is the Long-Term Outcome?

If this is not treated, patella-femoral dysfunction can make anterior knee pain worse. It can also lead to problems during sports. Any weak hip strength or problems with jumping form or running form can lead to anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears. Patella-femoral dysfunction does not cause ACL tears though.

Can Patella-Femoral Dysfunction Be Prevented?

You can prevent patella-femoral dysfunction with:

  • Proper running and jumping methods
  • Strong core muscles (belly and back muscles)
  • Flat feet corrections

Last Updated 07/2018

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