6 Stretches to Help Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome

Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome Stretches

Stretches for Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome

Patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS) is a condition of the knee joint caused by mal-tracking of the patella within the intercondylar groove. It is a common injury among athletes, particularly runners and cyclists.

This article will look at the causes of patellofemoral pain syndrome, its treatment, its symptoms and risks, and will suggest stretches and exercises to prevent and treat the condition.

Causes of Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome

The cause of PFPS is thought to be multifactorial, with a combination of anatomical and biomechanical factors believed to play a role. Specifically, there are four features of the knee that can predispose an individual to PFPS.

These include:

  1. Abnormal lower limb biomechanics, resulting in an increased Q-angle (the angle at which the quadriceps muscle tendon inserts into the patella)
  2. Patella alta (high-riding patella)
  3. Patellar hypermobility or maltracking
  4. Weak VMO muscles

Symptoms of Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome

Symptoms can occur suddenly due to an injury, or over time from repeated overuse of the joint.

Symptoms of PFPS include:

  • Pain around the patella (kneecap)
  • Pain with prolonged sitting or using stairs
  • Knee pain during/after exercise


Patellofemoral Pain StretchesTreatment for Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome

Rest, ice, and anti-inflammatory medication can be used to ease symptoms. The application of heat can also be used to increase circulation and loosen tight muscles.

There is no single treatment that works for all PFPS sufferers, due to the many different possible causes. However, there are some standard guidelines in management depending on whether symptoms are acute or chronic in nature.

A rehabilitation program can include:

  • strengthening and stretching muscle surrounding the knee
  • improve movement pattern to avoid excessive stress on the patellofemoral joint
  • patellar bracing for those who have a history of reoccurring cases of PFPS

6 Stretches for Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome

A physical therapist can show you how to do these stretches. Make sure not to bounce, hold your breath, or perform the stretch to the point of discomfort.

  1. Front Lunge: Lunge forward on one leg, keeping the other straight out behind you and lowering your hips toward the ground. You should feel a stretch in your front thigh; hold for 10 seconds, then release. Repeat three times on each side.
  2. Quadriceps Stretch (Standing Knee Extension): Stand with one end of a resistance band around the bottom of your foot and the other end around your hand. Keeping your knee pointed up, use both hands to pull the band towards you. This will pull your knee towards your body. Do this until you feel tension in your quadriceps; hold for 10 seconds then release. Repeat three times on each side.
  3. Hamstring Stretch (Lying Knee Bend): Lie flat on your back, legs extended in front of you, arms at your sides with palms facing down. Tighten the muscles in your legs to push your heels toward the ground; hold for 10 seconds then release. Repeat three times on each side.
  4. Clam Exercise: Laying on your back on the floor, bend your knees towards the ceiling and press them together. Then, slowly let your knees fall apart and then pull them closed again. Opening and closing in a clam motion while keeping low back pressed into the ground; hold for 10 seconds then release. Repeat three times on each side.
  5. Calf Stretch (Standing Towel Curl): While standing on one leg, hands on back of a chair for support, gently lean forward until you feel the stretch in your calf; hold for 10 seconds then release. Repeat three times on each side.
  6. Glute Stretch (Glute Clam Raise): Lie flat on your back, knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Keeping your heels pressed into the ground, tighten your glutes to lift hips off of ground; hold for 10 seconds then release. Repeat three times on each side.

What is Patellar Tendonitis?

The patellar tendon attaches the quadriceps muscles to the top of the tibia just below the knee joint. When this attachment becomes inflamed due to overuse or direct trauma, it is known as patellar tendonitis. The pain is felt below the kneecap and can make it difficult to even walk or bend down.

Treatment for Patellar Tendonitis

A doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatory medication, steroid injection, a knee brace, physical therapy, patellar taping, or a combination of treatments depending on the severity of symptoms. Corticosteroid injections can sometimes provide temporary relief from pain.

In cases of chronic patellar tendonitis, a surgical procedure known as tenotomy may be performed to cut the tendon and increase mobility in the joint. The most important thing to do is avoid overuse or activities that cause pain. The use of hot packs or ice can also help reduce inflammation and ease pain.

Strengthening exercises for the quadriceps and hamstrings should be performed while the tendon is healing.

What is the Patella?

The patella (kneecap) is a sesamoid bone within the knee joint that allows for increased leverage of the quadriceps muscles. It sits within the trochlear groove between the femur and tibia, where it acts as a fulcrum against which thigh muscles act to straighten the leg.

The trochlear groove is effectively an oblong ring of bone that constricts the patella as it moves within it. The medial and lateral femorotibial articular surfaces on either side of the trochlear notch contribute to forming this groove, which has varying depths at different points along its periphery.

If the center of the patella is not directly overlying this groove, but instead placed to one side of it, the articular surfaces do not line up and could cause excessive wear and tear on the cartilage. This is called mal-tracking or lateral tracking.

What is Patella Lateral Tracking?

A patella that laterally (to the outside) “tracks” when it moves in the trochlear notch is called ‘lateral tracking’. This can occur when the knee is straight or slightly bent. If the center of the kneecap is displaced to the outside, it will tend to track laterally as the knee is flexed and extend.


In conclusion, patellofemoral pain syndrome is a common cause of knee pain that can occur when people engage in activities that involve running, jumping, or using the stairs.

If the symptoms of patellar tendonitis or patellofemoral pain syndrome are continually recurring, it may be advisable to seek a doctor’s opinion.

You should also test the flexibility of your quads and hamstrings as well as perform strengthening exercises to overcome both of these conditions.

One final note; if you do use physical therapy as a potential treatment, make sure you do it as part of a well balanced rehabilitation program. It should not be the only thing you are doing to overcome the condition.

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