Evaluation of a treatment algorithm for patients with patellofemoral pain syndrome: a pilot study

Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2015 Apr;10(2):178-88.


Background: Treatment of patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS) has been extensively studied in physical therapy literature. Patients with PFPS demonstrate quadriceps and hip musculature weakness, altered lower extremity (LE) kinematics, and decreased LE flexibility. Psychosocial factors have also been identified as an important factor in patients with PFPS. The authors hypothesize that an ordered approach addressing each of these impairments sequentially will result in greater improvement in PFPS symptoms. The purpose of this pilot study was to assess the feasibility of performing a randomized trial and to determine the sample size necessary to examine the validity of this hypothesis.

Methods: Patients received a sequential treatment approach using a PFPS treatment algorithm (PFPS Algorithm) designed by the authors. Patients were evaluated assessing psychosocial factors, flexibility, LE kinematics, and LE strength. Impairments that were found in the evaluation were addressed sequentially over the episode of care. Patients were prescribed therapy two times per week for six weeks. Pain, Anterior Knee Pain Scale (AKPS), and Global Rating of Change (GROC) were measured at evaluation and discharge.

Results: Thirty consecutive patients with PFPS who were referred to physical therapy were enrolled in the pilot study. All phases of the feasibility study including recruitment, treatment protocols and data collection were effectively carried out. One hundred percent of patients treated with the PFPS algorithm who completed the prescribed treatment had a clinically significant improvement in the AKPS and GROC. A floor effect was noted with NPRS with 38% of patients unable to achieve clinically significant improvement.

Conclusions: With minor changes to the protocol and outcome measures used, a full randomized trial is feasible and merited. Steps must be taken to reduce the high drop-out rate among both groups.

Level of evidence: 1b.

Keywords: Patellofemoral pain; knee pain; physical therapy.