Anterior Knee Pain

What is Anterior Knee Pain?

Cutaway image of knee parts involved in Anterior Knee Pain

  • Anterior Knee Pain refers to pain felt at the front of the knee which is usually due to problems with the kneecap (the patello-femoral mechanism)


  • Anterior Knee pain is also referred to as chondromalacia patella, patellar chondritis, and patello-femoral syndrome


What Causes Anterior Knee Pain?

Anterior knee pain often occurs when the under surface of the kneecap comes in contact with the thigh bone. It is usually caused by softening and breaking down of the of the joint surface (cartilage) underneath the kneecap.

This causes swelling and pain as the knee bends and straightens and is particularly noticeable when the kneecap is under increased strain such as climbing or descending stairs, kneeling and squatting. The following may increase the likelihood of Anterior Knee Pain

  • Abnormal knee cap positioning
  • Tightness or weakness of the muscles associated with the knee
  • Too much activity involving the knee
  • Flat feet
  • Being overweight
  • Previous injuries related to the kneecap
  • Runners, football players, cyclists, and other people who exercise often

What are the symptoms and signs of Anterior Knee Pain?

Dull, aching pain that is felt:Image showing where inflammation occurs causing Anterior Knee Pain

  • Behind the kneecap
  • Below the kneecap
  • On the sides of the kneecap

A feeling of grinding when the knee is flexed may occur. This can happen:

  • Doing knee bends
  • Going down stairs
  • Running down hill
  • Standing up after sitting for a while

How is Anterior Knee Pain diagnosed?

  • The presence of typical symptoms as mentioned above
  • Examination to eliminate other causes
  • X-rays and MRI’s may be done to confirm inflammation

What is the treatment for Anterior Knee Pain?

This condition rarely requires surgery. The pain, however, and how long it persists, can vary from person to person and occasionally be a prolonged period of time. Therapy is usually based around resting the knee and includes preventative measures such as:

  • Modifying activities avoiding aggravating activities, and modification of sport and work environments
  • Stretching and Strengthening – This will help muscles weakened by the pain though should be avoided in the painful stages of the condition
  • Medication – Anti-inflammatory tablets may be prescribed to decrease inflammation
  • Bracing & Taping – A brace may be used to support the kneecap and occasionally taping can be used to alter the weight transfer through the kneecap
  • Surgery – Surgery is rarely needed and only considered where symptoms have persisted despite continued treatment
  • Physical Therapy – initially this will focus on decreasing acute pain, then strengthening, stretching, and rehabilitation of the joint to protect from exacerbation

What is the future outlook with Anterior Knee Pain?

Under normal circumstances, the patient should have a rapid recovery and return to being fully functional. Anterior Knee Pain is not believed to be a precursor to osteoarthritis.

Download our information sheet to learn more about Anterior Knee Pain and treatment options.