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Joint and Spine Center
Patella Femoral Pain Syndrome (PFPS) is a condition of the kneecap characterized by a rough or soft spot on its cartilage surface. In the past, it has been called chondromalacia of the patella, runner's knee, or dashboard knee.
Symptoms include pain, giving way, stiffness and a feeling of catching or grinding. Going up and down stairs is a bit difficult, and sitting with your knees bent or squatting is very uncomfortable. It makes the knee "give out," grind, or pop loudly.
Many people may have PFPS, but only about 10 percent have a long-lasting pain or disability because of it — a fact not clearly understood by the medical profession. Over-activity, excess weight or injury sometimes initiate the symptoms. This condition is often seen in adolescents, manual laborers and athletes.
A patient's history and a physical examination suggest the diagnosis. Imaging studies such as x-rays or an MRI can also be helpful. If there is any doubt, we will suggest arthroscopy to look behind the kneecap and check to see that there is no other injury or abnormality.
It may last several months, but fortunately, is usually a self-limiting problem. If you are born with an abnormal kneecap, it may last indefinitely. You may even need an operation to correct it, though this is not always necessary..
Anti-inflammatory medicines can often decrease swelling, stiffness and pain. Other treatments may include injections, ice, rest, and physical therapy. Taping and a brace to stabilize the kneecap also can be helpful.
The good news is that although PFPS can be uncomfortable, usually it is only a short-term problem. It also generally does not lead to arthritis or other joint conditions.