Anterior knee pain is a type of pain that occurs in the front of the knee. A leading cause of anterior knee pain is patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS). This condition affects your kneecap (patella). It typically occurs because of an issue with the patellar tendon or other soft tissue around the patella.
Anterior knee pain is widespread, especially in athletes who take part in sports that involve running, jumping, and sudden stops and starts. Those with knee osteoarthritis can also suffer from this type of knee pain.
People with anterior knee pain often find it difficult to walk up or down stairs and may experience a catching or buckling sensation when they walk. A physical therapist can help you address this type of knee pain and learn more about why you have it.
What else can cause anterior knee pain?
Physical therapists know that there are many factors that can lead to anterior knee pain or a condition like PFPS. Here are four factors that can make someone more likely to develop this form of knee pain:
- Overuse — Doing too much of a specific movement can make knee pain more likely. For example, repeated jumping or squatting during exercise programs can bring about knee pain.
- Poorly aligned kneecaps — If your kneecaps are displaced to one side or rotated abnormally, they may not move appropriately as they slide up and down over the lower end of your thigh bones. In turn, this abnormal movement could be causing your pain.
- Weak thigh muscles — If you have weak thigh muscles, particularly the quadriceps (the large muscle at the front of your thigh), this can increase pressure on the undersurface of your kneecaps. Over time, the muscle weakness and increased pressure can lead to painful knee issues.
- Tight or inflexible muscles in your legs or hips — Flexibility in your knees often relies on you having flexible leg and hip muscles. If, instead, your leg and hip muscles are tight or lack flexibility, you may be putting extra strain on your knees when you walk or exercise. After a while, your knees may start to feel painful as a result of the added strain placed on them.
How physical therapists can pinpoint the source of your anterior knee pain
If you have knee pain, a physical therapist can help determine which of many possible causes might be contributing to your pain. They will start with a thorough evaluation to determine why you’re experiencing knee pain. Special tests may be a part of such an evaluation. These tests allow your physical therapist to look for signs of patellofemoral (kneecap) instability, abnormal alignment of bones in the leg below the knee and other issues. Here are three steps or tests that your evaluation process may include:
- A lower body orthopedic evaluation — This will include an assessment of your hips, feet and knees to rule out other possible sources of pain. For example, tight iliotibial (IT) bands or weak hip muscles can place undue stress on your knees; if you have high arches or collapsed arches of your feet, that can also lead to knee pain. These and other underlying conditions can be discovered during a lower body orthopedic evaluation.
- Functional testing — Your physical therapist may also want to determine how well your knees can function. To test knee function, they may have you perform squats, climb stairs or do other activities that involve your knees. Some physical therapists may have you run or walk on a treadmill with video cameras monitoring your gait from several angles. This is called a gait analysis.
- Range-of-motion tests — Your physical therapist can measure your range of motion with a goniometer. This device measures the angle at which you can bend and straighten your knee. You might also be asked to do a single-legged squat or lunge to test your range of motion and strength.
Can physical therapy help me recover from anterior knee pain?
If you are suffering from anterior knee pain, Armor Physical Therapy is ready and willing to help. Our team of licensed physical therapy specialists can work with you to create a physical therapy plan that is specifically tailored to your recovery needs. This plan can include multiple PT methods aimed at reducing your knee pain.
Contact us today for more information about how we can treat your knee pain or to schedule your initial appointment.