Diagnosis Orthopedics

Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome

Your doctor will likely ask when you noticed your knee pain, how it has been feeling since the pain began and if you've injured your knee before. He or she also may ask about any other conditions you have, such as diabetes and allergies, and if you are currently taking any medications.

Your doctor will assess the injury by feeling the knee area. Because the kneecap is easily accessible, he or she can quickly test for pain and tenderness by moving your kneecap and check how well it tracks as you flex and extend your leg. After this brief exam, your doctor most likely will be able to tell whether your discomfort is due to patellofemoral pain syndrome or another knee problem.

Should your doctor require a closer look, the following tests may be conducted:

  • X-ray These can be taken from different angles to show when your kneecap is off-track.
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) This is an effective tool that may be used to see if your pain is due to bone, cartilage or muscle problems. MRI results are usually available in two days.
  • Arthroscopy During this test, the doctor inserts a tiny camera into your knee in order to gather more details about the state of your knee area. This is done on an outpatient basis and is relatively pain-free.

Patellofemoral pain syndrome may indicate that the protective cartilage under your kneecap is wearing down, which can eventually lead to bone loss and arthritis.

UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.