Rehabilitation Protocol for Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome

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Rehabilitation Protocol for Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome

This guideline is intended to provide the clinician with a guideline of the non-operative course of care for Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome. Specific intervention should be based on the needs of the individual and should consider exam findings and clinical decision making. The timeframes for expected outcomes contained within this guideline may vary. If a clinician requires assistance in the progression of a patient, they should consult with the referring provider.

The interventions included within this protocol are not intended to be an inclusive list. Therapeutic interventions should be included and modified based on the progress of the patient and under the discretion of the clinician.

Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (PFPS) is a general category of anterior knee pain that is characterized as pain behind or around the patella, as a result of patella malalignment, altered patellofemoral (PF) joint forces and/or repetitive stress to the area. Also known as Runner’s Knee, chondromalacia patella, retropatellar pain syndrome, anterior knee pain syndrome, patellar malalignment, and patellofemoral arthralgia. Patellofemoral syndrome can have a collection of signs and symptoms which may encompass body regions throughout the kinetic chain, from the lumbar spine to the feet.

Diagnosis Considerations
Differential Diagnosis

• Pain: typically reported anywhere circumferential to the anterior knee or retropatellar region.

• Common Aggravating Factors: prolonged sitting, squatting, climbing/descending stairs, running,

and jumping.

• Increased tibiofemoral varum/valgum or tibial varum: normal subjects with hypermobility

exhibit larger Q angles than normal subjects with normal mobility. Patients with greater

amounts of medial rotation of the femur with respect to the tibia, typically produce larger

amounts of contact area at the patellofemoral joint.

• Foot position/footwear. Excessive or late pronation during gait can increase tibial internal

rotation, thus altering patellofemoral forces.

• Higher-level activities which include landing with excessive hip internal rotation and/or knee

valgus may contribute to abnormal PF joint loading.

• Strength deficits (including balance and eccentric control) may be noticeable throughout the

lower extremity and lumbopelvic region.

• Special tests: Vastus Medialis Coordination Test, Patellar Apprehension Test, Clarke’s Test,

Eccentric Step Test, McConnell’s Test, Patellar Tilt Test, Tibial Angulation Test

• Articular cartilage injury

• Osgood-Schlatter disease

• Bone tumor

• Osteochondritis dessicans

• Chondromalacia patella

• Patellar stress fracture

• Referred pain from low back or hip

• Patellofemoral arthritis

• Hoffa’s Disease

• Pes Anserine Bursitis

• Iliotibial Band Friction Syndrome

• Prepatellar Bursitis

• Inflammatory joint disease

• Quadriceps/Patellar tendinopathy

• Loose Bodies

• Sinding-Larsen-Johansson Syndrome

• Meniscal pathology

• Symptomatic Bipartite Patella

• Neuromas

• Synovial plica



• Reduce any swelling, minimize pain


• Restore patellar, lower extremity mobility (including hip and ankle)

• Restore tolerance to full motion

• Minimize arthrogenic muscle inhibition and re-establish quadriceps, hip control

• Patient education

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o Minimize aggravating factors as much as possible, such as descending stairs, prolonged sitting, running, jumping
o Initial self-symptom management and joint protection o Independent with initial home exercise program During this early phase, numerous manual interventions may be utilized to reduce the patient’s pain, restriction to movement, and joint loading: • Soft Tissue Mobilization/Instrument-Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization • Patellar Taping (McConnell, Kinesiotaping) • Ischemic compression/Bloodflow Restrictive Training • Dry Needling • Nerve mobilization • Joint mobilization/manipulation • Strengthening • Stretching

Mobility • Stationary biking for tolerable mobility (minimal resistance) • Stretching/Foam rolling
o Hip flexors o Hamstrings o Quadriceps o Iliotibial band o Adductors o Hip extensors/rotators o Gastroc-soleus complex

Criteria to Progress

Strengthening • Quadriceps isometrics at 0, 45, 90 degrees of flexion • Straight leg raise • Bridge/unilateral bridging • Sidelying clamshells • Sidelying hip abduction • Core/lumbopelvic stabilization (transverse abdominus, multifidus lifts, front/side planks) • Full knee motion, compared to uninvolved side • Appropriate quad contraction with superior patella glide and full active extension • Able to perform straight leg raise without lag or pain • Full tolerance to weightbearing with relative knee extension



• Progress to closed-chain/weightbearing activities without loading of knee flexion


• Maintain full ROM

• Tolerance to closed chain strengthening without loading of knee joint in flexion

• Independent with progressed home exercise program, all daily activities




• Sumo walks

*Continue with

• Monster walks

Phase I interventions as

• 4-way hip drills



• Single-leg stance

• Clock taps

• Ball toss

Correction of movement abnormalities with functional tasks

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Criteria to Progress

• Tolerance to weightbearing activities • Maintenance of full ROM • Normalize muscle length or achieve muscle length goals


Rehabilitation Goals

• Maintain full ROM • Promote proper movement patterns

• Avoid post exercise pain/swelling

• Achieve all muscle strength goals

• Negotiating stairs unlimited

• Full tolerance to closed chain knee joint loading with flexion, with appropriate eccentric control

• Achieve all muscle strength goals

• Achieve daily/functional goals

Additional Interventions *Continue with Phase I-II Interventions as indicated

Strengthening • Partial squat, squat to chair, wall slide, progressing to functional squat pattern • Lunge/reverse lunge • Step ups • Step downs, eccentric loading

Correction of movement abnormalities with sport-related tasks

Criteria for Discharge

Return to Running Program • Independent self-management of symptoms • Demonstrate appropriate understanding of condition and maintenance to prevent risk of

Revised 6/2021 Contact

Please email [email protected] with questions specific to this protocol

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Rehabilitation Protocol for Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome