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Knee Cap Pain
(Patello-Femoral Pain Syndrome) 
  • Causes of Knee Cap Pain

  • Symptoms

  • Diagnosis

  • Treatment

  • Self Help

Pain at the front of your knee around the knee cap (patella) is a common problem that can occur after an injury to the knee cap or it can occur as a secondary problem after another injury to the ankle, knee, hip or back. It can occur if your hip or hamstring muscles are tight or if you have problems with your feet or low back. It can be related to growth and changes in the body shape during puberty. It can also be caused by overuse in activities requiring a lot or kneeling or squatting.

The muscles around the knee can become weak and the ligaments around the knee cap can tighten causing the knee cap to run out of its groove. This results in pinching of the soft tissues around the knee cap, inflammation, swelling, pain and uneven wearing of the joint.



Causes of Knee Cap Pain

Knee cap pain can be caused by a single injury or a combination of factors. It can be caused by or made worse by any of the following.

  • Activities such as walking up and down stairs or hills, squatting, kneeling or sitting for prolonged periods with the knees bent

  • Running or jumping on hard surfaces

  • A fall onto or a blow to the knee cap

  • Tightness of the hamstrings, hip or calf muscles

  • Weakness or imbalance of the quadriceps muscles

  • Weakness or imbalance in the trunk, pelvis or buttock (gluteal) muscles

  • Overuse or incorrect technique in your sport

  • Wearing inappropriate, ill-fitting or worn out footwear

  • Limping because of another injury

  • Knee cap pain is common in teenagers (more commonly girls) due to rapid growth and changes in body shape at this time, but can happen at any age

Knee cap pain can occur if the knee cap is pulled out of alignment by muscle weakness or tightness.


  • Pain in or around the knee cap or pain at the back of the knee

  • Swelling

  • Locking, clicking or crunching of the knee cap with movement

  • Difficulty kneeling, squatting, going up and downstairs or sitting with your knees bent



There are numerous structures around your knee cap that can cause your pain and you may have developed secondary tightness or weakness in nearby structures. Our physiotherapists will determine which structures are causing your symptoms and implement an effective treatment regime for your condition.


Our physiotherapy treatment will vary depending on your particular symptoms. It may include techniques to reduce the swelling, inflammation and pain around your knee cap, to stretch the tight structures around your knee and to restore the strength, flexibility and control of your knee muscles. Some people may also need to stretch or release hip muscles and perform some core strengthening for the back, abdominal and gluteal muscles. In other people foot position may need to be improved. An exercise programme is important maintain your improvement. If your knee cap is tracking out of alignment or if it is very swollen and painful, our physiotherapists may tape your knee cap to improve alignment, give support and ease your pain.

With physiotherapy, knee cap pain usually recovers well when you follow your treatment and home exercise programme. In most people the pain will settle in 3 to 6 weeks. A few simple home exercises should be continued for a few months or so after the pain has eased, to help prevent a recurrence.

Self Help

  • Try not to limp as limping will cause further muscle weakness and prolong your recovery.

  • If your knee is very swollen and inflamed avoid kneeling and squatting while your symptoms are severe.

  • Seek help early, as this condition tends to worsen if neglected.

At Sutherland Shire Physiotherapy Centre we have had many years experience in the treatment of knee conditions, including knee cap pain.

Call today to schedule an appointment with one of our physiotherapists.

Please note that the above information is of a general nature and is not intended to substitute for professional advice. You should always seek the advice of your qualified health practitioner to attain a proper diagnosis before starting any treatment regime.

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