Anterior knee pain is pain that occurs at the front and center of the knee. It refers to many different problems, including:
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 kneecap to the bones and muscles that surround the knee. These tendons are called:
Anterior knee pain begins when the kneecap does not move properly and rubs against the lower part of the thigh bone. This may occur because:
Anterior knee pain is more common in:
Other possible causes of anterior knee pain include:
Anterior knee pain is a dull, aching pain that is most often felt:
One common symptom is a grating or grinding sensation when the knee is flexed (when the ankle is brought closer to the back of the thigh).
Symptoms may be more noticeable with:
The health care provider will perform a physical examination. The knee may be tender and mildly swollen, and the kneecap may not be perfectly lined up with the thigh bone (femur).
When you flex your knee, you may feel a grinding sensation below the kneecap. Pressing the kneecap when the knee is straightening out may be painful.
X-rays are usually normal, although a special x-ray view of the kneecap may show signs of arthritis or tilting.
MRI scans are rarely needed.
Resting the knee for a short period of time and taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen, naproxen, or aspirin may help relieve pain.
Other treatments or self-care for anterior knee pain include:
Surgery for pain behind the kneecap (anterior knee pain) is rarely needed. During the surgery:
Anterior knee pain often improves with a change in activity, exercise therapy, and the use of NSAIDs.
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if you have symptoms of this disorder.
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington; and C. Benjamin Ma, MD, 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. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.