Front knee pain, aka anterior knee pain, is extremely common. In fact, the front of the knee is the most common place to experience pain. It may be a general ache around the front of the knee or a specific sharp pain that you suffer from.
Here you will find a summary of the most common causes of front knee pain. Click on the links to find out more about each condition including diagnosis, symptoms and treatment options for each.
What is it: Problem with how the kneecap moves. This is the most common cause of front knee pain
Symptoms: General ache and patella pain, grinding, mild swelling
Aggravating Activities: Repeated activities, stairs, prolonged inactivity
Onset: Builds up gradually over time. No specific injury
AKA: Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome/Anterior Knee Pain
Treatment: Exs, brace, orthotics, occasionally surgery. Visit the Runners Knee section for more info.
What is it: Damage to the cartilage on the back of the kneecap
Symptoms: Achy pain in front of knee, swelling, clicking/grinding
Aggravating Activities: Getting up from sitting, sports, pressure through the kneecap, pain going down stairs
Onset? Gradual onset. Most common in young, healthy people. More common in women.
Treatment: Exs, knee straps, orthotics, gel pads, occasionally surgery. Visit the Chondromalacia Patella section for in-depth info.
What is it: Inflammation of the bursa (fluid filled sac) at the front of the knee
Symptoms: Front knee pain, swelling (like a squashy orange) and redness
Aggravating Activities: Kneeling, bending the leg, walking
Onset: Usually gradual onset in people who spend a lot of time kneeling eg carpet layers, plumbers, housewives. Occasionally develops after a blow to the front of the knee
Treatment: PRICE, stretches, gel pads, injections, occasionally surgery. Visit the Housemaids Knee section for more info.
What is it: Irritation of the bone just below the kneecap. It is the most common cause of front knee pain in teenagers
Symptoms: Front knee pain just below the kneecap, bony lump, tender to touch
Aggravating Activities: Sports esp kicking, jumping and running
Onset: Most common in boys aged 9-16. Often follows a growth spurt
Treatment: PRICE, knee straps, exercises, plaster cast, gel pads. Visit the Osgood Schlatters section for more info.
What is it: Damage to the patellar tendon just below the kneecap Symptoms: Front knee pain just below the patella, aching and stiffness after activity, thickening of the tendon
Aggravating Activities: Repetitive activities eg jumping and kicking
Onset: Gradual onset. Usually gets progressively worse
Treatment: Rest, ice, knee straps, exercises, surgery. Visit the Patellar Tendonitis section for more info.
What is it: Overstretching/tearing one of the ligaments in the knee
Symptoms: General pain, swelling, bruising and occasional giving way and/or decreased movement
Aggravating Activities: Depends on the severity but likely to be any activity
Onset: Sudden twisting movements or a force through the knee
Treatment: PRICE, exercises, braces. Visit the Knee Sprain section
What is it: Tear in the cartilage lining the joint
Symptoms: Pain, swelling, locking, instability, difficulty straightening the knee,
Aggravating Activities: Walking, running, stairs esp going up, deep knee flexion
Onset: Can occur suddenly with a force through or sudden twisting of the knee, or gradually through wear and tear
Treatment: PRICE, exercises, brace, tubigrip, sometimes requires surgery. Can take a long time to heal - visit the Meniscus Tear section for more info.
What is it: Changes in the bone usually caused by wear and tear (osteoarthritis) or sometimes by inflammation (rheumatoid arthritis)
Symptoms: Morning stiffness, pain, swelling, clicking/grinding, reduced leg movements
Aggravating Activities: Worse after prolonged rest, activity, cold weather
Onset: Symptoms gradually come on over time. Most common over the age of 50
Treatment: Exercises, brace, acupuncture, walking aids, injections, surgery. Visit the Arthritis section for more info.
What is it: Decreased blood supply to the bone causes fragments of bone and cartilage to detach
Symptoms: General achy pain, occasional sharp pain, locking, weakness, decreased leg movement, swelling, clunking
Aggravating Activities: Sports, twisting the knee, stairs
Onset: Occurs at any age but most prevalent 10-20year olds. 3x more common in men
Treatment: Rest, exercises, brace, surgery. Visit the Osteochondritis Dissecans section for more info.
Front knee pain is extremely common, but is usually fairly simple to overcome. Find out more about the most common causes of front knee pain, including indepth information on the causes, symptoms and treatment options by clicking on the links above.
If you would prefer to diagnose your pain using other specific symptoms, how the pain started or the specific location of the pain, go to the Diagnose your Pain section for help working out was is causing your pain and to learn what you can do about it. Remember, the best way to accurately diagnose your problem is to see your doctor.
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Updated 5th March 2014
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