Patellofemoral pain syndrome

Estimated Duration: 
1 hour

Patellofemoral pain is a common presentation in primary care. It is most commonly seen in those below the age of forty years; however, it can affect people of all ages and activity levels. In adolescents, the onset of pain can coincide with periods of accelerated growth, while in older patients it often co-exists with degenerative joint changes.

The term ‘patellofemoral syndrome’ is usually reserved to describe the younger patient with an anatomically normal (or near-normal) knee.

Patellofemoral pain generally presents as anterior knee pain behind or around the patella, of gradual onset and not precipitated by trauma. It is often persistent and can cause considerable disruption to the activities of daily life. If the patient reduces their level of physical activity as a result of pain, then the possibility of weight gain can cause further stress to the patellofemoral joint and a vicious cycle can develop. 

A thorough history and examination are usually all that is needed to make a diagnosis. Imaging is rarely required and is generally normal in younger patients. An accurate diagnosis, an explanation of the condition and a clear planned rehabilitation treatment programme with a realistic timeline improves the success of management of this syndrome.

Objectives of this course

  • Be able to define patellofemoral pain syndrome and understand the possible intrinsic and extrinsic factors which may be implicated.
  • Be able to diagnose patellofemoral pain based on a patient’s history and examination.
  • Have an understanding of the indications for further investigation and be able to order these appropriately.
  • Be able to develop and implement an initial treatment plan for patients you diagnose with patellofemoral pain.


Once you have completed this short course and quiz, please click 'submit' where you will be taken to the results page. From here you can print your certificate for 1 Continuing Professional Development (CPD) hour.


This content was created by Dr Helen Joyce Fulcher MBChB, DipPaed, PGCertHSc(Sports Med), in June 2016, and updated in 2021 by Dr Grace Lee, FRNZCGP, MBCHB, BSc, DipTravMed.

The material is presented by the Goodfellow Unit (GFU), an accredited continuing medical education/ continuing professional development (CME/CPD) provider for the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners and functions under a tripartite agreement between the Goodfellow Foundation, the College and the University of Auckland. The Unit is located within the Department of General Practice and Primary Health Care, and within the School of Population Health.


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