Anterior knee pain occurs at the front and centre of the knee. It can be caused by many different problems, including:
- Chondromalacia of the patella — the softening and breakdown of the tissue (cartilage) on the underside of the kneecap (patella)
- Runner’s knee — sometimes called patellar tendinitis
- Lateral compression syndrome — the patella tracks more to the outside part of the knee
- Quadriceps tendinitis — pain and tenderness at the quadriceps tendon attachment to the patella
- Patella maltracking — instability of the patella on the knee
- Patella arthritis — cartilage breakdown underneath your kneecap
- Overuse. Running or jumping sports put repetitive stress on your knee joint, irritating the kneecap.
- Muscle imbalances or weaknesses. Patellofemoral pain can occur when the muscles around your hip and knee don’t keep your kneecap correctly aligned. Inward movement of the knee during a squat is associated with patellofemoral pain.
- Injury. Trauma to the kneecap, such as a dislocation or fracture, has been linked to patellofemoral pain syndrome.
- Surgery. Knee surgery, particularly repair to the anterior cruciate ligament using your patellar tendon as a graft, increases the risk of patellofemoral pain.
Factors that can increase your risk include:
- Age. Patellofemoral pain syndrome typically affects adolescents and young adults. Knee problems in older populations are more commonly caused by arthritis.
- Sex. Women are twice as likely as men to develop patellofemoral pain. This may be because a woman’s wider pelvis increases the angle at which the bones in the knee joint meet.
- Certain sports. Participation in certain sports can significantly put extra stress on your knees when you increase your training level.
Sometimes knee pain happens. But specific steps may help prevent the pain.
- Maintain strength. Strong quadriceps and hip abductor muscles help keep the knee balanced during activity, but avoid deep squatting during your weight training.
- Think alignment and technique. Ask your doctor or physical therapist about flexibility and strength exercises to optimize your jumping, running and pivoting technique—and help the patella tracking properly in its groove. Exercise is vital for your outer hip muscles to prevent your knee from caving inward when you squat, land from a jump or step down from a step.
- Lose excess pounds. If you’re overweight, losing weight relieves stress on your knees.
- Warm-up. Before running or other exercises, warm up with five minutes or so of light activity.
- Stretch. Promote flexibility with gentle stretching exercises.
- Increase intensity gradually. Avoid sudden changes in the intensity of your workouts.
- Practice shoe smarts. Make sure your shoes fit well and provide good shock absorption. If you have flat feet, consider shoe inserts.