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Anterior knee pain

Contents of this page:

Alternative Names   

Runner's knee

Definition    Return to top

Anterior knee pain is pain that occurs at the front of the knee.

Considerations    Return to top

The health care provider will perform a physical examination of the knee to confirm and assess the pain.

Tests that may be performed to rule out possible structural damage to the knee or connective tissue include the following:

Causes    Return to top

Common causes of runner's knee include rotation (pronation) and lateral (away from the middle) pulling of the kneecap. This causes the kneecap to become misaligned with the connective tissues and muscles involved with knee movement.

Anterior knee pain may also be caused by:

Symptoms    Return to top

Symptoms include knee pain below the kneecap and on the sides of the kneecap, particularly with deep knee bends or prolonged sitting.

In cases of runner's knee, pain occurs first when running downhill then gets worse and occurs with all running. Finally, pain is present even when you do not run.

First Aid    Return to top

Treatment of anterior knee pain involves resting the knee and not running until you can do it without pain.

A sports medicine specialist or physical therapist may prescribe stretching exercises for the hamstrings and quadriceps, and strengthening exercises for the muscle that pulls the kneecap toward the center of the body. You can substitute bicycling for other exercise if you can do it without pain.

Special shoe inserts and orthotics (support devices) may help prevent further injury after healing.

DO NOT    Return to top

Do NOT perform deep knee bends or overuse the knee until your symptoms improve.

When to Contact a Medical Professional    Return to top

Call your health care provider if knee pain persists in spite of resting the joint.

Prevention    Return to top

To help prevent sports injuries:

References    Return to top

Dixit S, DiFiori JP, Burton M, Mines B. Management of patellofemoral pain syndrome. Am Fam Physician. 2007;75:194-202.

May TJ. Persistent anterior knee pain. Am Fam Physician. 2007;76:277-278.

Update Date: 5/5/2008

Updated by: Andrew L. Chen, MD, MS, Orthopedic Surgery and Sports Medicine, The Alpine Clinic, Littleton, NH. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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