Knee Cap Pain

Anterior knee pain or Knee Cap Pain is pain in the front, under, or around the kneecap (patella). In the medical community this condition is referred to as patellofemoral pain (PFP) and it’s one of the most common types of knee pain reported in the United States. Although there are separate diagnoses that can cause pain in the front of the knee, the following information will help to answer everyday questions related to this all too common diagnosis.

Man holding his knee while sitting on the couch due to pain.Man holding his knee on a couch.

What Causes Anterior Knee Pain or Knee Cap Pain?

Anterior knee pain arises when there is increased friction between the bottom of the kneecap (patella) and the top surface of the thigh bone (femur) where it meets at the knee. For a majority of patients, this abnormal friction can be traced to poor strength/endurance of the hip muscles. Our hip muscles can become weak over time as a result of prolonged sitting. When our hip muscles are less supportive we often feel the effects as pain in our knees and/or lower back. This is where a thorough evaluation by a healthcare professional can be helpful to find the appropriate source of the pain.

How is Knee Pain in the Front Diagnosed?

There are many signs and symptoms commonly associated with PFPS or Knee Cap Pain. The main one being pain along the anterior knee, around, or under the kneecap. Many patients will complain of pain when sitting with their knee bent for an extended period of time. There may also be a “popping/grinding” sensation accompanied by pain when extending the knee from a bent position to a straightened position.

Colored diagram of knee anatomy from the lateral viewKnee Cap Pain

How Do You Stop Anterior Knee Pain?

If you are diagnosed with PFP, your physician may refer you to a physical therapist for an evaluation to determine the source of your anterior knee pain. Most patients who complete physical therapy are successful in greatly reducing or eliminating their anterior knee pain.

Treatment includes: 

-Strengthening of the VMO and Quad Muscles

-Stretching of the IT Band, Hamstrings and Calf Muscles

IT Band StretchJOI Rehab IT Band Stretch 

-McConnell Taping or a Shield's Brace

-Foot Orthotics

Do Ointments Help Knee Cap Pain?

There are an endless supply of topical ointments, creams, gels, sprays, patches, and lotions available to the public for the reduction of minor pains and aches. Whether they are prescription, over the counter, medicated, or non-medicated.

The reality is that these products are made to momentarily reduce pain and nothing more. Although many of them can provide a soothing, pain numbing experience, the results are always temporary and will not address the actual cause of the pain.

When Should I See a Doctor for Knee Pain?

If your anterior knee pain was the result of an impact, resulting in your knee becoming swollen, red, warm, and/or point tender, then you should make an appointment with your doctor. However, even if your pain was not the result of acute trauma, your knee does not have to become swollen and disabling for you to seek medical attention. Maybe you haven’t been as active lately and increased time on the couch or at a desk has steered you to developing anterior knee pain. This may be the time to reach out to your doctor to determine the most appropriate path you should take in relieving your pain.

By: Steve Borkowski PT, MPT, MTC, CEAS

Want to learn more about the knee tendon(s) and anatomy? Click HERE.

Jacksonville Orthopaedic Institute

Even with proper training and prevention care, injuries can still happen. The Jacksonville Orthopedic Institute is still here to help. 

To schedule an appointment for physical therapy at one of the 12 JOI Rehab Centers, please call 904-858-7045.

JOI Doctors and Therapists are experts in treating patients with various injuries. If you need us, we are here for you! To schedule an appointment, call 904-JOI-2000, schedule online, or click the link below.

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