Anterior Knee Pain

Knee pain is one of the most common sports injuries and is associated with a vast number of causes and treatments. The knee is particularly susceptible to injury as it is the largest and most complicated joint in the human body, bearing weight constantly as it is essential for everyday activities like sitting and standing. The knee is a pivotal hinge joint which allows the joint to move up and down as well as rotating to a certain extent. The knee is also used for the majority of sports activities including; football, running, tennis, jumping and even swimming.

What is anterior knee pain?

Anterior knee pain is a specific type of knee pain, described as either; a mild ache situated behind the kneecap or “patella” (a more common in symptom for teenagers) or constant sharp pain in the front of the knee, often spreading to the centre. Anterior knee pain has no particular identifiable cause and is often only diagnosed by diminishing all other possible causes.

How is anterior knee pain diagnosed?

As there is no specific identifiable cause for anterior knee pain, diagnosis is solely based upon the exclusion of all other possible knee injuries. In order to do this your GP will probably ask some general questions relative to the location of the pain and at when it is most severe. Your doctor may also perform a number of general tests in order to check:

  • Hip rotation and knee stability
  • The strength and flexibility of the knee
  • Any tenderness underneath the knee cap

Can anterior knee pain be prevented?

Anterior knee pain can be prevented by taking particular care of the area behind the knee cap (patella); this can be done quite successfully by wearing adequate footwear and protective equipment when participating in any kind of sport. In addition to this, maintaining a sufficient warm up before exercising will give the muscles surrounding the knee chance to warm up as well as the knee joint itself.

For more information on warming up visit our section on warming up: The Warm Up

Are there any long term side-effects?

Continuing with your current sports activities will not cause any long term damage, although the pain is likely to become more severe. Due to the complicated anatomy of the knee, you may also begin to experience other problems relative to your original anterior knee injury these can include:

  • Poor flexibility
  • Imbalance of the thigh muscles that support the knee joint
  • Development of long term disease such as osteoarthritis

How is anterior knee pain treated?

Treatment for anterior knee pain is quite straight forward, with rest being the most immediately effective method. Resting will give the tissues in the knee to repair themselves, after rest the development of a new training routine (perhaps a particularly ‘knee-friendly routine) may be necessary to prevent the same injury reoccurring. The aid of a simple knee support bandage can also aid healing as extra support is provided to the muscles surrounding the knee cap. As well as this pain killers like Paracetamol and anti-inflammatory drugs like Ibuprofen (normally given 3 times daily).

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