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Clinical features

Last reviewed dd mmm yyyy. Last edited dd mmm yyyy

Authoring team

Knee pain is the most common presentation of patellofemoral syndrome

  • pain characteristically is retropatellar) and most often manifests during activities that require knee flexion and forceful contraction of the quadriceps (eg, during squats, ascending/descending stairs)
    • may worsen in intensity, duration, and rapidity of onset if the aggravating activity is performed repeatedly
    • may be exacerbated by sitting with the knee flexed for a protracted period of time, such as while watching a movie
      • leading to the terms "theatre sign" and "movie-goer's knee" where a patients with this condition often may prefer to sit at an aisle seat, where they may more frequently keep the knee extended
  • knee pain often occurs during the activity, or may occur later after the activity has been completed
    • occasionally symptoms manifest as late as the next day.

Clinical examination:

  • usual physical findings are localized around the knee
    • tenderness often is present along the facets of the patella
      • facets are most accessible to palpation by manipulation of the patella while the knee is fully extended and the quadriceps muscle is relaxed
        • manual positioning of the patella medially, laterally, superiorly, and inferiorly allows for palpation of the respective facets
    • an apprehension sign may be elicited by manually fixing the position of the patella against the femur and having the patient contract the ipsilateral quadriceps
    • there may be crepitus present
      • however if present in isolation, crepitus does not allow for definitive diagnosis
  • Q-angle may be calculated by measuring the angle between the tibia and femur
    • use the attachment of the patella to the patellar tendon as the intersection point
  • examination of gait may demonstrate excessive foot pronation, excessive knee valgus, or an antalgic gait pattern
  • knee pain may be reproduced by repetitive squatting

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The content herein is provided for informational purposes and does not replace the need to apply professional clinical judgement when diagnosing or treating any medical condition. A licensed medical practitioner should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions.


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