Patello-femoral Pain (Knee Pain)

Patello-femoral pain (PFP) is the term used to described a group of symptoms attributed to the inability of the knee cap (patella) to maintain position within the groove made for it at the front of the knee joint, during  bending and straightening of the leg i.e. ‘Poor Tracking’.

PFP is a common complaint affecting 20% of the general population and an even greater percentage in athletes involved in jumping and landing sports. The pain is often ill defined over the front of the knee but can include sharp pains at the bottom and inside edges of the patella. 

When the knee is bent, the patella is ‘pulled back’ with force against the knee joint surface. If poor tracking exists, this movement will be painful in such activities as going up or down stairs or hills,  squatting, and prolonged sitting with the knee bent. 

If left untreated, over time, it can lead to roughening and degeneration of the cartilage and bony surfaces where these bones come in to contact at the front of the knee joint and back of the patella.  This eventually may need surgical intervention.



Assuming a correct positive diagnosis is made by a Physiotherapist, Sports Physician or Orthopaedic specialist, treatment usually involves all, or a selection of the following:

  • Stretching of muscles and soft tissues that if tight, contribute to pulling the patella ‘Off track’.
  • Strengthening of muscles that if weak, can’t contribute to keeping the patella ‘On track'.
  • Strapping of the patella to assist correct tracking.
  • Correction of foot and/or hip positioning to help align the knee correctly.
  • Local pain relieving modalities.



Current research based on the above treatment program indicates 90% of patients that respond quickly and favourably to treatment.  Another study found 86% of patients under the age of 38 demonstrated good to excellent results, with success diminishing to 50% over this age.


The message is clear - Track it down early!

Seek advice on conservative treatment before degenerative changes occur.