Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from Dynamic Medicine and BioMed Central.

Open Access Highly Accessed Review

Patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS): a systematic review of anatomy and potential risk factors

Gregory R Waryasz12* and Ann Y McDermott13

Author Affiliations

1 Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, MA, USA

2 Department of Nutrition, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, MA, USA

3 Kinesiology Department, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, CA, USA

For all author emails, please log on.

Dynamic Medicine 2008, 7:9  doi:10.1186/1476-5918-7-9

Published: 26 June 2008

Abstract

Background

Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (PFPS), a common cause of anterior knee pain, is successfully treated in over 2/3 of patients through rehabilitation protocols designed to reduce pain and return function to the individual. Applying preventive medicine strategies, the majority of cases of PFPS may be avoided if a pre-diagnosis can be made by clinician or certified athletic trainer testing the current researched potential risk factors during a Preparticipation Screening Evaluation (PPSE). We provide a detailed and comprehensive review of the soft tissue, arterial system, and innervation to the patellofemoral joint in order to supply the clinician with the knowledge required to assess the anatomy and make recommendations to patients identified as potentially at risk. The purpose of this article is to review knee anatomy and the literature regarding potential risk factors associated with patellofemoral pain syndrome and prehabilitation strategies. A comprehensive review of knee anatomy will present the relationships of arterial collateralization, innervations, and soft tissue alignment to the possible multifactoral mechanism involved in PFPS, while attempting to advocate future use of different treatments aimed at non-soft tissue causes of PFPS.

Methods

A systematic database search of English language PubMed, SportDiscus, Ovid MEDLINE, Web of Science, LexisNexis, and EBM reviews, plus hand searching the reference lists of these retrieved articles was performed to determine possible risk factors for patellofemoral pain syndrome.

Results

Positive potential risk factors identified included: weakness in functional testing; gastrocnemius, hamstring, quadriceps or iliotibial band tightness; generalized ligamentous laxity; deficient hamstring or quadriceps strength; hip musculature weakness; an excessive quadriceps (Q) angle; patellar compression or tilting; and an abnormal VMO/VL reflex timing. An evidence-based medicine model was utilized to report evaluation criteria to determine the at-risk individuals, then a defined prehabilitation program was proposed that begins with a dynamic warm-up followed by stretches, power and multi-joint exercises, and culminates with isolation exercises. The prehabilitation program is performed at lower intensity level ranges and can be conducted 3 days per week in conjunction with general strength training. Based on an objective one repetition maximum (1RM) test which determines the amount an individual can lift in good form through a full range of motion, prehabilitation exercises are performed at 50–60% intensity.

Conclusion

To reduce the likelihood of developing PFPS, any individual, especially those with positive potential risk factors, can perform the proposed prehabilitation program.