Patient Education

To help you understand and navigate through your orthopedic health decisions, we have created a patient education section. Please select from one of the categories below to learn more about your condition or procedure.
Runner’s Knee (Patellofemoral Pain)

Runner’s knee, or patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS), is a common condition characterized by pain around or behind the kneecap (patella). It often affects runners, hence the name, but can also occur in athletes and individuals who engage in activities that put repetitive stress on the knee joint.

Common Symptoms

  • Pain: Dull, aching pain around or behind the kneecap, especially during activities like running, squatting, or climbing stairs.
  • Swelling: Mild swelling around the knee.
  • Grinding Sensation: A feeling of grinding or clicking when bending or straightening the knee.
  • Instability: A sensation that the knee is giving way or buckling.

Cause & Anatomy

  • Overuse: Repetitive stress from activities like running, jumping, and squatting can irritate the patellofemoral joint.
  • Misalignment: Poor alignment of the patella can cause uneven wear and tear on the joint.
  • Muscle Imbalance: Weakness or tightness in the muscles around the knee, particularly the quadriceps and hip muscles.
  • Injury: Direct trauma to the knee, such as a fall or blow, can cause patellofemoral pain.
  • Biomechanical Issues: Flat feet, high arches, or improper footwear can contribute to knee pain.

Anatomy of the Knee

  • Patella (Kneecap): A small, flat bone that sits in front of the knee joint and glides in a groove at the end of the femur (thighbone).
  • Femur (Thighbone): The upper bone of the knee joint.
  • Tibia (Shinbone): The lower bone of the knee joint.
  • Patellar Tendon: Connects the patella to the tibia.
  • Quadriceps Tendon: Connects the quadriceps muscles to the patella.


  • Assessment of symptoms, activity level, and any history of knee problems.
  • Physical examination to evaluate pain, swelling, and alignment of the patella.
  • X-rays: To rule out other conditions like fractures or arthritis.
  • MRI: Occasionally used to assess the cartilage and soft tissues if the diagnosis is unclear.


  • Strengthening Exercises: Regular exercises to strengthen the muscles around the knee.
  • Flexibility Training: Stretching to maintain flexibility, particularly of the quadriceps and hamstrings.
  • Proper Footwear: Use shoes with good arch support and cushioning.
  • Gradual Increase in Activity: Gradually increase the intensity and duration of physical activities to avoid overuse injuries.

Non-Surgical Treatment

Rest and Activity Modification:

  • Reduce or avoid activities that exacerbate symptoms.
  • Gradual return to activities as symptoms improve.

Ice and Compression:

  • Apply ice packs to the affected area to reduce pain and swelling.
  • Use a compression bandage if necessary.


  • Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen.

Physical Therapy:

  • Strengthening exercises for the quadriceps, hamstrings, and hip muscles.
  • Stretching exercises to improve flexibility.
  • Patellar taping or bracing to improve alignment and reduce pain.

Footwear and Orthotics:

  • Use of proper footwear with good arch support.
  • Custom orthotics to correct biomechanical issues like flat feet.

Recovery & Rehabilitation

Gradual Increase in Activity:

  • Gradual return to running or other activities, starting with low-impact exercises like swimming or cycling.

Ongoing Physical Therapy:

  • Continued focus on strengthening and stretching exercises to maintain muscle balance and prevent recurrence.

Activity Modification:

  • Avoid high-impact activities and those that put excessive stress on the knees until fully healed.

Potential Complications

  • Chronic Pain: Persistent pain despite treatment.
  • Recurrent Symptoms: Symptoms may return if the underlying issues are not addressed.
  • Knee Instability: Ongoing instability or giving way of the knee.


Can runner’s knee heal on its own?
With proper rest, activity modification, and treatment, many cases of runner’s knee improve on their own. Persistent or severe cases may require medical intervention.

How long does it take to recover from runner’s knee?
Recovery time varies. Mild cases may improve within a few weeks with conservative treatment, while more severe cases can take several months.

Can I continue running with runner’s knee?
It’s best to reduce or avoid running and other high-impact activities until symptoms improve. Gradual return to activity under the guidance of a healthcare provider or physical therapist is recommended.

Are there exercises I should avoid with runner’s knee?
Avoid exercises that put excessive stress on the knees, such as deep squats, lunges, and high-impact activities. Focus on low-impact exercises and those that strengthen and stretch the muscles around the knee.

When should I see a doctor for knee pain?
If knee pain is severe, persistent, or associated with significant swelling, instability, or if it limits daily activities, consult a healthcare provider for evaluation and treatment.

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