Rx3: Knee Pain FAQs

What is patellofemoral pain syndrome?

Patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS) is characterized as pain in the front of the knee. This kind of knee pain is common in runners and other people who put a lot of pressure on their knees. The exact cause of PFPS usually can’t be determined, but some possible causes are overuse of the knee joint, abnormal movement of the kneecap, or weakness and/or tightness in the muscles in the hip and leg.

What are the symptoms of PFPS?

PFPS involves pain in front of, around, or behind the kneecap. It can come on slowly or quickly. The pain usually gets worse with activities such as squatting, running, climbing stairs, or sitting for long periods of time. For some people, it feels as if their knee is giving way during certain activities.

Is there a test for PFPS?

No single test can tell for sure if you have PFPS. However, your healthcare provider should be able to tell by asking about your symptoms and doing a physical exam. Your doctor also might order imaging tests such as X-ray or MRI to make sure your symptoms aren’t caused by some other condition. In most cases, though, there is no need for additional tests.

How is PFPS treated?

The way to treat PFPS is through rehabilitation: performing exercises and stretches to increase the strength, endurance, and flexibility of the muscles of hip and knee.

This program organizes the exercises by phases based on how far along you are in the recovery process. Unless your healthcare provider tells you otherwise, start with Phase 1. Advance to the next phase no sooner than three weeks and only when you feel you have mastered the exercises and can perform them with minimal effort and discomfort. If you have pain during or after the Phase 1 exercises, or if you have questions about when to go on to the next phase, check with your healthcare provider.

Each phase includes leg exercises, core exercises, a cardio component, and stretches. Make sure you always do all the parts of each phase.

How long is this knee rehabilitation program?

Complete the program at least three (3) days a week, increasing to five (5) days a week as it becomes easier. Each exercise session should take about 20 minutes, plus the cardio component, and less than 15 minutes for stretching. You will need very little equipment for this program. Each phase takes at least three (3) weeks, so the program will take you at least nine (9) weeks, but the actual time you need to recover will depend on your specific injury condition.