Document Type


Publication Date



National Athletic Trainers Association

Source Publication

Journal of Athletic Training

Source ISSN


Original Item ID

DOI: 10.4085/1062-6050-0190.20



Patellofemoral pain (PFP) has high recurrence rates and minimal long-term treatment success. Central sensitization refers to dysfunctional pain modulation that occurs when nociceptive neurons become hyperresponsive. Researchers in this area of PFP have been increasingly productive in the past decade.


To determine whether evidence supports manifestations of central sensitization in individuals with PFP.

Data Sources

We searched MeSH terms for quantitative sensory testing (QST) pressure pain thresholds (PPTs), conditioned pain modulation (CPM), temporal summation, sensitization, hyperalgesia, and anterior knee pain or PFP in PubMed, SPORTDiscus, CINAHL, Academic Search Complete, and EBSCOhost.

Study Selection

Peer-reviewed studies that were written in English and published between 2005 and 2020 and investigated QST or pain mapping in a sample with PFP were included in this review.

Data Extraction

The initial search yielded 140 articles. After duplicates were removed, 78 abstracts were reviewed. The full text of 21 studies was examined, and we included 15 studies in our evaluation: 6 in the meta-analysis, 4 in the systematic review, and 5 in both the meta-analysis and systematic review.

Data Synthesis

A random-effects meta-analysis was conducted for 4 QST variables (local PPTs, remote PPTs, CPM, temporal summation). Strong evidence supported lower local and remote PPTs, impaired CPM, and facilitated temporal summation in individuals with PFP compared with pain-free individuals. Evidence for heat and cold pain thresholds was conflicting. Pain mapping demonstrated expanding pain patterns associated with long duration of PFP symptoms.


Signs of central sensitization were present in individuals with PFP, indicating altered pain modulation. The etiologic and treatment models of PFP should reflect the current body of evidence regarding central sensitization. Signs of central sensitization should be monitored clinically, and treatments with central effects should be considered as part of a multimodal plan of care.


Published version. Journal of Athletic Training, Vol. 56, No. 8 (August 2021): 887-901. DOI. © 2021 National Athletic Trainers Association. Used with permission.

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