Effects of physical therapist-guided quadriceps-strengthening exercises for the treatment of patellofemoral pain syndrome: a systematic review

J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2014 Jun;44(6):391-402, B1. doi: 10.2519/jospt.2014.4127. Epub 2014 Apr 25.


Study design: Systematic literature review.

Objective: To summarize the evidence for physical therapist-guided quadriceps-strengthening exercises as a treatment for patellofemoral pain syndrome.

Background: Although quadriceps strengthening is often included in the plan of care for patellofemoral pain syndrome, a systematic review published in 2003 found only limited evidence that exercise was more effective than no exercise for this common condition.

Methods: The PubMed, Embase/MEDLINE, and Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials databases, from inception to January 9, 2014, were searched for randomized controlled trials comparing the use of quadriceps-strengthening exercises to interventions consisting of advice/information or a placebo. Outcomes of interest were pain measures and function, as measured with self-report questionnaires. The methodological quality of the randomized controlled trials was assessed with the Physiotherapy Evidence Database scale. Results were summarized using a best-evidence synthesis and graphically illustrated using forest plots without meta-analysis.

Results: Seven studies were included in the literature review. These studies reported strong evidence that isolated quadriceps strengthening is more effective in reducing pain and improving function than advice and information alone. In addition, compared to advice and information or placebo, there was strong evidence that quadriceps-strengthening exercises combined with other interventions may be more effective in reducing pain immediately postintervention and after 12 months, but not in improving function.

Conclusion: The literature provides strong evidence for the use of quadriceps-strengthening exercises, with or without other interventions, for the treatment of patellofemoral pain syndrome.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Exercise Therapy / methods*
  • Humans
  • Muscle Strength / physiology*
  • Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome / physiopathology*
  • Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome / rehabilitation*
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Quadriceps Muscle / physiology*
  • Treatment Outcome