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Anterior Knee Pain

Anterior knee pain is a characterized by pain over the front of the knee joint, usually around the patella (kneecap). It is common in athletes and active adolescents (especially girls). Anterior knee pain refers to a variety of conditions, including runner's knee, patellar tendinitis, and chondromalacia of the patella.


There are many potential causes of anterior knee pain. These include alignment abnormalities, improper training habits, limited flexibility, strength imbalance, excessive sports activities, poor footware, injury, and arthritis, among others. The most common cause, however, is overuse.


Pain is the predominant symptom and is usually gradual in onset. Patients may experience a dull aching pain around the sides, below or behind the kneecap. Sometimes, climbing stairs and standing up or walking after prolonged sitting may exacerbate the symptoms. The pain may also be present at night and be exaggerated by any repetitive knee bending activity such as jumping, squatting, running or weight lifting.


Diagnosis of anterior knee pain includes a medical history and physical examination along with imaging tests such as X-ray. MRI is only occasionally required.


Most patients respond to conservative treatment, which includes application of ice, rest and rehabilitation exercises. Ice helps to relieve the swelling and inflammation, rest protects the joint from repetitive injury while stretching and strengthening exercises improve knee joint function over time. Sometimes, if needed, anti-inflammatory drugs may also be used. Surgical treatment is rarely indicated.