Knee Patello-Femoral Joint (PFJ) Pain - Fact Sheet

What is a Knee Patello-Femoral Joint (PFJ) Pain ?

The patella-femoral joint (or PFJ) is the articulation of the kneecap on the femur (thigh bone). PFJ pain is an umbrella term relating to anterior knee pain due to irritation of the PFJ. This can be caused by a number of contributing factors.

What causes patello-femoral joint pain?

PFJ pain can be caused by:
• PFJ joint stiffness
• PFJ osteoarthritis
• PFJ mechanical irritation from maltracking of the patella (also called runner’s knee)
• Weakness of the quadriceps muscle group (particularly the VMO muscle)
• Other biomechanical factors i.e. Flat feet, hip weakness/internal rotation


Patello-fem joint

Signs and symptoms patello-femoral joint pain?

• Sharp anterior knee pain +/- referral down shin
• Pain with climbing/descending stairs, running or walking uphill
• Pain with squat/lunge type movements
• Knee stiffness in the morning

Knee pain - compressed

Treatment of knee patello-femoral joint pain?

Tailored Clinical Exercise – improving the strength of the kneecap stabilisers (including the quads and VMO, hip rotators and foot musculature) is the best, most proven way of reducing/managing PFJ pain. Consult a Physiotherapist or Exercise Physiologist to get a thorough assessment and to help you address the contributing factors to your PFJ pain.

Manual therapy – mobilisation techniques can be beneficial in addressing PFJ stiffness if this is contributing to your pain.

Gradual return to full activity – As pain permits, slow re-introduction into full activity/training. This can be of variable timeframes, depending how irritable the PFJ is, or how strong the quads are.

Knee exercises
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