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7 Ways Physical Therapy Improves Kneecap Pain

By Beth Jennings, PT

Do you have pain over the front of your knee? Is it difficult to locate but appears when climbing stairs, during exercise, or on your 5-mile run? Or does this pesky pain occur with prolonged sitting? 

Knees are more complex than they appear, and pain can generate from several areas. When the source is in and around the kneecap, it is called patellofemoral pain (PFP).

    Patella: the kneecap

    Femoral: related to the femur or thigh bone

    Patellofemoral: the area where the kneecap meets the femur

Seen in adolescents and active adults, PFP affects females 2.2 times more likely than males. It can hamper your daily routine and sideline a workout schedule. 

At FYZICAL - Forest Grove, we can evaluate you for PFP and guide you to recovery.

PFP Symptoms

Pain in the front of the knee occurs in activities in which the knee is in a weight-bearing or loaded position such as squatting, jumping, running, or stair climbing. 

PFP can also appear with prolonged sitting.


Causes of PFP

This type of knee pain is usually unrelated to any trauma, and the cause can be unknown. 

Often weakness, tightness, or looseness in the lower body can contribute to the problem.

Allowing the knee to drift inward when squatting or climbing stairs, instead of aligning it over the foot, can create irritation. Much like tires that will wear unevenly when a car is out of alignment, our knees can do the same.

How PT Can Help

The Academy of Orthopaedic Physical Therapy of the American Physical Therapy Association has outlined the most effective treatment methods from the field of research on PFP. Based on this evidence, your FYZICAL - Forest Grove PT will: 

1.  Discuss your pain and how it is impacting your function. Knowing when to modify activity can be difficult. Complete rest is rarely necessary either. You may fill out a questionnaire specific to knee pain or rate your pain on a scale from 0 to 10 (worst pain = 10) with different activities.

2.  Assess for muscle weakness in the hips and legs. Often weakness in the outer hip muscles is noted.

3.  Prescribe exercises based on the assessment. They will likely focus on the muscles of the front of the thigh, outer hips, and buttocks.

4.  Assess for too much mobility, such as in the foot, which can cause abnormal stresses at the knee. Also assessing the mobility of the kneecap itself can be important in identifying tight tissues that need to be addressed. 

5.  Provide hands-on care and taping techniques. Exercise and activity modification are the bulk of the treatment for PFP, but some hands-on techniques help to loosen tissues.

6.  Discuss orthotics to see if they might help correct alignment or mobility issues of the foot which could be placing increased stresses on the knees. 

7.  Assess for poor movement patterns and retrain, such as performing a squat in front of the mirror with direction from the PT on the correct technique. If applicable, an assessment of your running pattern may help to discover areas for improvement.

Relief could be just down the road at FYZICAL - Forest Grove. Stop by or give us a call so we can help you with your knee pain. 

Do you know someone who has knee pain who might enjoy this article? Please share it on Facebook, Twitter, or via email through the links at the top of this post.

Beth Jennings is a freelance writer and physical therapist.

Disclaimer This blog is provided for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.


Connell G, To D, Ashraf M, Verville L. Appraisal and summary of patellofemoral pain clinical practice guideline. Journal of the Canadian Chiropractic Association. 2020;64(3):180-186. Accessed March 3, 2021.

Patellofemoral Pain. Clinical Practice Guidelines Linked to the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health From the Academy of Orthopaedic Physical Therapy of the American Physical Therapy Association, J of Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2019;49(9):CPG1-CPG95.

Boling M, Padua D, Marshall S, Guskiewicz K, Pyne S, Beutler A. Gender differences in the incidence and prevalence of patellofemoral pain syndrome. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports. 2010;20(5):725-730. doi:10.1111/j.1600-0838.2009.00996.x