Physical Examination and Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome: an Updated Review

Donald Kasitinon, Wei Xian Li, Eric Xue Song Wang, Michael Fredericson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Purpose of Review: Patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS) accounts for 25 to 40% of all knee disorders. Diagnosis of PFPS is primarily based on history and physical examination, but the findings on physical examination are often subtle and do not consistently correlate with symptoms described. Yoon and Fredericson published a review article in 2006 detailing the physical examination maneuvers most frequently used to assist clinicians in the accurate diagnosis and treatment of PFPS, and our aim in this review is to provide an update on this previous article focusing on the literature published over the past 15 years regarding the topic. Recent Findings: Since publication of Fredericson’s original review article, there have been studies building on the literature specifically surrounding Q angle, patellar tilt, crepitus, strength and functional testing, and physical examination maneuver clustering. Additionally, multiple studies have been conducted on the use of musculoskeletal ultrasound (US) as a diagnostic tool for PFPS. Summary: Recent literature has further supported Q angle (when measured utilizing a standardized protocol), crepitus, weakness of hip abductors and extensors, and weakness detected in functional testing as predictors of PFPS while finding inconsistent evidence behind lateral patellar tilt as a predictor of PFPS. The reliability of most physical examination tests alone remain low, but clustering physical examination findings may provide better sensitivities and specificities in diagnosing PFPS. Musculoskeletal US is rapidly gaining popularity, and decreased vastus medialis obliquus (VMO) volume, asymmetry in gluteus medius thickness, intra-articular effusions, and quadriceps and patellar tendon thicknesses have shown value in diagnosing those with PFPS. Additionally, US has the advantage of providing dynamic examination as well as evaluation of the patellofemoral joint in newborns and infants as a predictor of future patellofemoral instability. Further studies are needed to establish the gold standard for diagnosing PFPS and what US findings are truly predictive of PFPS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)406-412
Number of pages7
JournalCurrent Reviews in Musculoskeletal Medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • Anterior knee pain
  • Musculoskeletal ultrasound
  • Patellofemoral pain syndrome
  • Physical examination

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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