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Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome: Care Instructions

Alt text: Bent knee joint, showing quadriceps becoming the patellar tendon and, along with bone (femur), connecting to the patella (kneecap) from above

Your Care Instructions

Patellofemoral pain syndrome is pain in the front of the knee caused by overuse, weak thigh muscles (quadriceps), or a problem with the way the kneecap moves. Extra weight may also cause this syndrome. The patella is the kneecap, and the femur is the thigh bone. Some people may have pain in the front of the knee from a condition called chondromalacia, in which the underside of the knee cartilage wears down and frays. Cartilage is a rubbery tissue that cushions joints.

In some cases, the kneecap does not move, or track, in a normal way. You may have knee pain when you run, walk down hills or steps, or do another activity. Sitting for a long time also can cause knee pain.

Your knee pain may get better with medicines for pain and swelling and exercises to make your quadriceps stronger. Losing weight, if you need to, may also help with pain.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter pain medicine, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve). Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
  • Rest and protect your knee. Take a break from activities that cause pain, such as long periods of sitting or kneeling.
  • Put ice or a cold pack on your knee for 10 to 20 minutes after activity. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin.
  • If your doctor recommends an elastic bandage, sleeve, or other type of support for your knee, wear it as directed.
  • If your knee is not swollen, you can put moist heat, a heating pad, or a warm cloth on your knee. After several days of rest, you can begin gentle exercise of your knee.
  • Reach and stay at a healthy weight. Being overweight puts stress on your knees.
  • Wear athletic shoes that offer good support, especially if you run.
  • Use shoe inserts, or orthotics, if they help reduce your knee pain. Many pharmacies and shoe stores sell them.
  • See a physiotherapist to learn more exercises and stretches to make your legs stronger.

When should you call for help?

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • Your knee pain does not get better or gets worse.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.