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Patello-femoral Pain

What is patello-femoral pain?

Patello-femoral pain refers to pain or discomfort that is felt at the front of the knee. It is sometimes also referred to as Anterior knee pain. It often involves your knee cap (patella) and the surrounding tissues. 

Most patello-femoral pain will settle. It can take up to 6 months and you will need to be patient to see results.

What are the symptoms?

  • Discomfort/pain felt at the front of the knee
  • Pain sitting in one position for too long
  • Pain going up and down stairs or hills
  • Pain on kneeling
  • You may experience a sensation of the knee locking or giving way
  • Occasionally there maybe some mild swelling with the knee feeling a little warmer to touch 

What are the causes?

There are many different reasons that can cause patello-femoral pain. These include;

  • An increase to your usual activity levels or changes to your exercise habbits
  • Weakness or tightness in certain muscle groups affecting how the patella moves up and down in its groove - this is known as patella maltracking
  • An injury to the knee such as a fall or during sport
  • Being overweight
  • Age - It is more common in adolescents

What can I do to help myself?

  • Reduce any specific activities that cause your symptoms. You may need to adjust your exercise habbits but should not stop completely
  • Avoid prolonged sitting with your knees bent 
  • Avoid kneeling - especially on hard surfaces. If you have to kneel, use knee pads
  • Use pain killers - they will reduce your pain, allowing you to remain active. Try paracetamol and anti inflammatories, but if you are unsure what is safe for you to take then speak to a local pharmacist or your GP
  • Apply an ice pack to the knee - ensure you wrap the ice in a towel and check the skin regularly to avoid ice burns
  • Try to loose weight if you are overweight
  • Strengthen the muscles that surround the knee. We have included some below for you to try: 

Easy Exercises

Moderate Exercises

Advanced Exercises

  • Self refer to a physiotherapist

What will physiotherapy do?

A physiotherapist will take a thorough history of your symptoms and will conduct a physical examination of the area to confirm the diagnosis.

The main aim of physiotherapy is to restore strength and function to the knee. Treatment will be based on active rehabilitation, focusing on strength and control.

Your physiotherapist will create an individual and progressive exercise programme to address your individual needs. 

Acupuncture, electrotherapy and massage have not been shown to be helpful for anterior knee pain and therefore are not offered.


Symptoms to check

Click the plus sign to see a list of problems that could be a sign you may need to be checked urgently

Get advice from 111 now if:

  • your knee is very painful and you cannot put any weight on it
  • you have direct injury to the knee and it has become very swollen very quickly (within 60 minutes)
  • your knee is badly swollen or has changed shape
  • you have a very high temperature, feel hot and shivery, and have redness or heat around the knee – this can be a sign of infection

111 will tell you what to do. They can tell you the right place to get help if you need to see someone.

Go to 111.nhs.uk or call 111.

Immediate medical advice is available by contacting NHS 111

Exercises & Resources area

Exercises & Resources

If you already have a diagnosis from a medical professional you may find some of the following links more helpful


Referral Information

If your knee pain persists, or you are not sure what to do you can self-refer to see a local physiotherapist who can help you with your problem