Anterior knee pain is pain that occurs at the front and center of the knee.
Your kneecap (patella) sits over the front of your knee joint. As you bend or straighten your knee, the underside of the patella glides over the bones that make up the knee.
Strong tendons help attach the patella to the bones and muscles that surround the knee. These tendons are called:
Anterior knee pain refers to a number of different conditions. These include runner's knee (sometimes called patellar tendinitis) and chondromalacia of the patella.
Anterior knee pain is more common in:
The pain often comes from strained tendons (tendinitis) and irritation or softening of the cartilage that lines the underside of the kneecap (chondromalacia patellae).
These problems begin when the kneecap does not move properly and rubs against the lower part of the thigh bone. This may happen because:
Other possible cause of anterior knee pain include:
Anterior knee pain is a dull, aching pain that is most often felt:
Symptoms may be more noticeable with:
Treatment of anterior knee pain involves resting the knee and not running until you can do so without pain.
Apply ice. Try acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain and swelling (but you may want to check with your health care provider first).
Tests such as x-rays or MRI scans are rarely needed.
Surgery for pain behind the kneecap (anterior knee pain) is rarely needed.
Call your health care provider if knee pain does not go away, in spite of resting the joint.
Stretch the muscles on the back (hamstrings) and front (quadriceps) of your upper leg.
Your health care provider can also teach you ways to strengthen these muscles. Stronger muscles will help hold your kneecap in the correct position.
If you need to lose weight, find out how.
Changing the way you exercise may help:
Other techniques are:
Make sure your running shoes:
Runner's knee; Patellofemoral pain; Patellar tendinitis; Tendinitis - patellar; Jumper's knee
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Steiner T, Parker RD. Patella: subluxation and dislocation: 2. Patellofemoral instability: recurrent dislocation of the patella. In: DeLee JC, Drez D Jr., Miller MD, eds. DeLee and Drez's Orthopaedic Sports Medicine. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier;2009:chap 22:sect C.
Reviewed by: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine; and C. Benjamin Ma, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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