Causes of Anterior Knee Pain

Affecting over 78 million people in the US, anterior knee pain is one of the most common knee problems. It manifests itself as pain in the front and central part of the knee, causing significant discomfort. This condition can be triggered by various other bone and muscle-related injuries. While the condition can limit the quality of daily life, there are options to manage it.

This article will discuss the definition of anterior knee pain, possible underlying causes, common symptoms, and treatment options.

What is Anterior Knee Pain?

Anterior knee pain is a condition that is characterized by pain in the front section of the knee. The pain is often aggravated by activities such as; walking, running, or ascending or descending stairs. In more serious cases, the pain may also be present while resting or performing less strenuous activities.

Common Causes

Unfortunately, there isn’t a single cause of anterior knee pain. This condition is triggered by multiple common conditions such as:

  • Bone malalignment: When the bones in the knee are not correctly aligned, they can place extra stress on the joint and lead to pain.

  • Muscle imbalance: If the muscles around the knee are not in balance, they can cause undue stress on the joint and lead to pain.

  • Overuse: Repeated stress on the knee joint due to intense activity or significant weight can lead to inflammation and pain.

  • Injury: An acute injury to the knee joint can cause anterior knee pain immediately or later in life.

  • Patellar fracture: A patella (kneecap) fracture is a common cause of anterior knee pain.

  • Patellofemoral instability: Instability occurs when the patella is not properly stabilized in the trochlear groove of the femur (thighbone). This can lead to pain with activities such as walking, running, or going up and down stairs.


Medical History

Several medical conditions can trigger anterior knee pain, these include;

  • Patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS): Also known as runner’s knee, PFPS is a condition that results from repetitive stress on the patella. The condition is seen more often in runners but can occur in any individual who puts repetitive stress on their knees.

  • Patellar arthritis: Occurs when the patella’s cartilage deteriorates, causing inflammation and pain.

  • Patellar tendinitis: Involves inflammation of the tendon that attaches the kneecap to the shinbone. This condition is often caused by overuse, such as running or jumping.

  • Chondromalacia patella: Involves softening of the cartilage on the back of the kneecap. This condition can be caused by repetitive knee stress, such as running or squatting.

  • Knee bursitis: Bursitis is the inflammation of the bursa, a small sac of fluid that cushions the joint. Knee bursitis can be caused by overuse or trauma to the joint.

  • Quadriceps tendinitis: Involves inflammation of the quadriceps tendon, which attaches the quadriceps muscle to the knee. Quadriceps tendinitis is often caused by overuse or repetitive motions.

Symptoms of Anterior Knee Problems

The common symptoms associated with anterior knee issues include, but are not limited to;

  • Pain in the front of the knee that is aggravated by activity such as walking, running or ascending/descending stairs

  • Swelling and inflammation around the knee joint

  • Stiffness in the knee joint and surrounding areas

  • Abnormal weakness in the muscles surrounding the knee

  • Popping or cracking in the knee during movement


Who is Most at Risk?

Anyone can be affected by anterior knee pain; however, women are 2.23 times more likely to suffer from it. Another factor that increases the risk of developing anterior knee pain is high activity levels in adults and young adults. The more active you are, the higher risk you are, so ensure that you exercise with proper form and stretch before activity.

As well as active individuals, athletes, and those who play sports are at risk of developing anterior knee pain. They include, but are not limited to:

  • Professional Athletes
  • Runners
  • Cyclists
  • Skiers
  • Jumpers
  • Rock climbers
  • Motorists

Individuals with a history of other forms of knee injuries are also at a high risk of suffering from this condition.

Diagnosis of Anterior Knee Issues

Anterior knee issues are usually diagnosed based on a physical examination and a review of your medical history. Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and any activities that worsen your anterior knee pain. They will also perform a physical examination of your knee. In some cases, your doctor may order imaging tests, such as an X-ray or MRI, to rule out other conditions.

Treatment of Anterior Knee Pain

The treatment for anterior knee pain will vary depending on the underlying cause. However, the standard treatment options include;


  • Rest: Avoiding activities that aggravate the pain is essential in the early stages of treatment.

  • Ice or heat therapy: Applying ice or heat to the knee joint can help reduce swelling and pain.

  • Physical therapy: Strengthening the knee muscles can help alleviate joint stress and reduce pain. A physical therapist can create a tailored exercise program to suit your needs.

  • Anti-inflammatory medications: If necessary, over-the-counter or prescription anti-inflammatory medications can help reduce swelling and pain. However, it is recommended that you avoid this unless other forms of treatment have proven ineffective.

  • Taping to realign the kneecap: A physical therapist or doctor may tape the kneecap to try to realign it. This is often done in conjunction with other treatments, such as physical therapy.

  • Surgery: In severe cases, surgery may be necessary to correct a bone malalignment or other condition causing anterior knee pain.

Depending on the severity of your condition and the mode of treatment adopted, the symptoms may start to go away after a few days or weeks. Please consult your doctor or physician before beginning any treatment.

Preventing Anterior Knee Pain

There are several options you can pursue to help prevent anterior knee pain, including:

  • Wearing proper shoes: Wearing shoes that provide good support and cushioning can help reduce stress on the knee joint.
  • Exercising regularly: Keeping the muscles around the knee strong can help reduce stress on the joint and prevent pain.
  • Using proper knee protectors such as foams, braces, and gels: When participating in activities such as running or jumping, using protective joint support or unloader knee braces can help prevent injuries to the knee joint.
  • Stretching: Stretching the muscles around the knee can help improve flexibility and range of motion, which can help prevent pain.
  • Maintaining a moderate weight: Excess weight can put additional stress on the knee joint, so maintaining a healthy weight is vital for preventing anterior knee pain. 
  • Limit prolonged sitting with bent knees: Prolonged sitting with bent knees can put stress on the joint and lead to pain. Try to get up and move around every 30 minutes to keep the joint from getting stiff. 


Anterior knee pain is a condition that can cause significant discomfort. However, it is important to remember that prevention strategies and treatment options are available to help reduce the pain and promote healing, allowing you to return to your normal activities.

If you are experiencing anterior knee pain, talk to your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. If a knee brace is the best option for you and your knee, consider the Ascender knee brace by Icarus Medical. The Ascender is a new class of knee brace that protects the joint by unloading up to 40 lbs of weight during activity. The brace is custom-fit to you, covered by most insurance and made 100% in the USA. Contact one of our bracing guides for more information.

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