Patellofemoral Syndrome (Runner’s Knee)

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Sometimes referred to as “runner’s knee” or “jumper’s knee,” patellofemoral syndrome describes any pain under and around the kneecap. The condition includes several medical conditions such as anterior knee pain syndrome, patellofemoral malalignment and chondromalacia patella. In addition to those who play sports that involve running and jumping, patellofemoral syndrome is a common complaint among skiers, cyclists and soccer players.

At OrthoAspen, we address a number of knee conditions and injuries. Our highly-trained knee experts are committed to helping active patients return to the sports and activities they enjoy.

Causes & Symptoms

Patellofemoral syndrome is the most common diagnosis in individuals with knee pain and is particularly prevalent in runners, accounting for between 16% to 25% of all running injuries.

Patellofemoral syndrome can occur from a number of issues, which include:

  • Poor alignment of the kneecap
  • Partial dislocation, overuse, tight or weak thigh muscles
  • Flat feet
  • Direct trauma to the knee

Patellofemoral pain often comes from strained tendons and irritation or softening of the cartilage that lines the underside of the kneecap. Pain in the knee may be referred from other parts of the body, such as the back or hip.

The most common symptoms of patellofemoral syndrome include:

  • Pain underneath the kneecap while walking up or down stairs, squatting or kneeling
  • Pain resulting from having the knees bent for a long period of time
  • Pain that increases with activity

To properly assess patellofemoral syndrome your OrthoAspen doctor will ask about your symptoms, go over your medical history and inquire about any sports and activities that aggravate knee pain.

Your doctor will perform a physical examination of the knee as well as order diagnostic imaging tests such as X-rays, MRIs, CT scans and blood tests. Diagnostic images will verify if damage has occurred to the structure of the knee or to the tissues attached.


Whenever possible, OrthoAspen orthopedic experts will address patellofemoral syndrome by implementing conservative treatment methods. The first treatment step is to avoid activities that cause pain, such as running and jumping.

Conservative treatment options include:

  • Rest
  • Ice
  • Compression and elevation
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs)
  • Exercises to improve the flexibility and strength of the thigh muscles
  • Cross-training exercises to stretch the lower extremities
  • Knee taping over the patella, to alter the kneecap alignment and movement and reduce pain
  • Knee brace to be used during sports participation which may help reduce pain
  • Orthotics or specialized shoe inserts for those with flat feet to help relieve pain

When conservative treatment methods of patellofemoral syndrome haven’t produced the desired results in relieving symptoms, surgery may be recommended.

Surgical options include arthroscopic surgery or realignment surgery. During arthroscopy, damaged fragments are removed from the kneecap. A realignment procedure moves the kneecap back to its proper alignment, thus reducing the abnormal pressure on the cartilage and supporting structures around the front of the knee.


There are preventative measures to help reduce the risk of developing patellofemoral syndrome, which include:

  • Control weight to avoid overstressing the knees
  • Increase the intensity of workouts gradually
  • Utilization of shoe inserts for flat feet
  • Wear proper-fitting, good-quality running shoes with shock absorption
  • Avoid running straight down hills or on hard surfaces (instead walk down hills or run in a zigzag pattern)
  • Warming up for at least five minutes before starting any exercise
  • Stretching after exercising

At OrthoAspen, our knee experts are here to help you through the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of patellofemoral syndrome.

If you’re concerned that you may have a knee injury or condition, contact us now to schedule a consultation or call us at 970-544-1289.


Visit OrthoAspen in two convenient locations
Aspen Clinic
Aspen Valley Hospital
0401 Castle Creek Rd., Suite 2100,

Aspen, CO 81611
+(970) 544-1289
+(970) 544-1400
Basalt Clinic
Midvalley Medical Center
1450 E. Valley Rd., Suite 201,

Basalt, CO 81621
+(970) 544-1289
+(970) 544-1400