Patellofemoral pain is a common knee problem. If you have this condition, you feel pain under and around your kneecap. The pain can get worse when you're active or when you sit for a long time. You can have the pain in one or both knees.
The exact cause of patellofemoral pain isn't known. It probably has to do with the way your kneecap (patella) moves on the groove of your thigh bone (femur).
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.
The exercises in this handout can help strengthen your muscles and relieve your pain. Each exercise should take a few minutes. Doing them twice a day is a good start. Your doctor will tell you which exercises are right for you. After you do the exercises, reverse your position, and do the exercises with your other leg, so both knees get the benefit of stretching.
Be patient! Keep exercising to get better. Patellofemoral pain can be hard to treat, and your knees won't get better overnight. Some people are lucky and get better quickly. But it might take 6 weeks or longer for your knee to get better. You'll be less likely to get patellofemoral pain again if you stay in good shape, but don't make sudden changes in your workouts.
Lie flat on a firm surface, such as a floor. Bend your left leg to a 90 degree angle, with your foot flat on the floor. Hold your right leg straight for 10 to 20 seconds and then relax. Do the exercise 5 to 10 times.
Lie flat on a firm surface, such as a floor. Bend your left leg to a 90 degree angle, with your foot flat on the floor. Raise your right leg several inches, and hold it up for 5 to 10 seconds. Then lower your leg to the floor slowly over a few seconds. Do the exercise 5 to 10 times and then switch legs.
Sit on the floor with your legs out straight. Cross your right foot over your left knee. Twist your trunk to the right and use your left arm to "push" your right leg. You should feel the stretch in your right buttock and the outer part of your right thigh. Hold the stretch for 10 to 20 seconds. Do the exercise 5 to 10 times then switch legs.
Stand up straight, with your right leg crossed in front of your left leg. Hold your hands together and move them toward the floor. You should feel a stretch in the outer part of your left thigh. Hold the stretch for 10 to 20 seconds. Do the exercise 5 to 10 times and then switch legs.
Lie flat on the floor with your legs out straight. Bend your left knee toward your chest. Grip your thigh with your hands to keep the thigh steady. Straighten your left leg in the air until you feel a stretch. Hold the stretch for 5 to 10 seconds. Do the exercise 5 to 10 times then switch legs.
While sitting, squeeze a rubber ball between your knees. Hold the squeeze for 5 to 10 seconds. Do the exercise 5 to 10 times. (If you don't have a ball, put your hands or fists between your knees and then squeeze.)
For this exercise, use a wall or sturdy chair for balance. Stand on your left leg with the knee slightly bent. You can use you're left hand to hold onto the wall or chair. Slowly raise your right foot about 30 degrees, hold for a few seconds, and then slowly lower the foot and straighten both legs. Do the exercise 10 times. Don't let your pelvis tilt (be crooked), and don't let your knees turn inward during bending. Remember to switch legs.
Stand facing a wall. Put both hands against the wall and move your right foot back until you can feel a stretch in your calf muscle. Keep your left leg bent, with your knee lined up over your toes. Keep your right heel on the ground to feel the back of the leg stretch. Hold for 10 to 20 seconds. Do the exercise 6 to 10 times and then switch legs.
Management of Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome by S Dixit, M.D., JP Difiori, M.D., M Burton, M.D., and B Mines, M.D. (American Family Physician January 15, 2007, http://www.aafp.org/afp/2007/0115/p194.html)
Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome: A Review and Guidelines for Treatment by MS Juhn, D.O. (American Family Physician November 01, 1999, http://www.aafp.org/afp/991101ap/2012.html)
Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff