The objective of this study was to determine if quadriceps atrophy was present in people with patellofemoral pain (PFP), and whether the vastus medialis oblique (VMO) was selectively involved. The quadriceps muscle sizes of 35 participants with PFP (22 with unilateral and 13 with bilateral symptoms) and 35 asymptomatic control participants matched for age and sex were measured using real-time ultrasound. The thicknesses of the VMO, vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, rectus femoris, and vastus intermedius were measured. Paired-samples tests were used to compare muscle thickness between limbs in those with unilateral PFP, and independent t tests were used to compare muscle thickness between groups with and without PFP. In persons with unilateral PFP, the thickness of all portions of the quadriceps muscle was statistically smaller in the symptomatic compared to the asymptomatic limb: VMO (P = .038), vastus medialis (P<.001), vastus lateralis (P = .005), vastus intermedius (P = .013), and rectus femoris (P = .045). No difference was observed in thickness of any of the portions of the quadriceps on the affected side of people with PFP in comparison to asymptomatic controls: VMO (P = .148), vastus medialis (P = .474), vastus lateralis (P = .122), vastus intermedius (P = .466), and rectus femoris (P = .508).
Atrophy of all portions of the quadriceps muscles is present in the affected limb of people with unilateral PFP. There wasn't any atrophy of the quadriceps in individuals with PFP compared to those without pathology. Selective atrophy of the VMO relative to the vastus lateralis wasn't identified in persons with PFP.