Anterior Knee Pain

What is anterior knee pain?

Anterior knee pain is pain that is felt in the front of the knee, usually behind the patella (knee cap). It is commonly seen in people in their teens or early twenties and tends to affect females more than males.

What is the cause of anterior knee pain?

Most commonly, the pain originates in the patellofemoral joint, the joint made up of the patella and the groove in the end of the femur (thigh) bone that the patella sits in. It is often due to an imbalance in the pull of the various structures that attach to the patella as well as your posture as you move and bend at the knee. This causes abnormal forces in the patellofemoral joint which can cause pain. Sometimes there is roughening of the joint surface, which causes a sudden sharp pain or catching sensation.

What are the symptoms of anterior knee pain?

The main symptom is pain in the front of the knee. It is usually made worse by excessive weight bearing activities and any activity in which your body weight is being supported with the knees bent, including ascending or descending stairs and squatting. It is also common to experience clicking, catching and swelling.

How is it treated?

Fortunately, the majority of people with anterior knee pain can be treated successfully with non-surgical treatment. Initially this involves decreasing your level of activity to rest the knee, as well as using ice and regular anti-inflammatories to help settle the knee.

Physiotherapy is the most important aspect of non-surgical treatment. Your physiotherapist can massage tight structures around the knee to help relax them. Strengthening exercises are also important to help retrain and increase the strength of muscles around the knee and hip to improve your posture and patella stability. Under the guidance of your physiotherapist, you will gradually increase your level of activity again.

Occasionally, a knee arthroscopy may be considered, especially if there are significant catching symptoms caused by roughening of the joint surfaces. These surfaces can be shaved smooth. The results of arthroscopy can be unpredictable, though, and do not always improve symptoms.