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What is anterior knee pain injury?

Rick Olderman
Physical Therapy

A syndrome is simply a group of symptoms that commonly happen together. A diagnosis of anterior knee pain syndrome (AKPS) means you have pain in the front of the knee, usually when climbing stairs or after sitting for a while.

Fixing You: Hip & Knee Pain: Self-treatment for IT band friction, arthritis, groin pain, bursitis, knee pain, PFS, AKPS, and other diagnoses

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Fixing You: Hip & Knee Pain: Self-treatment for IT band friction, arthritis, groin pain, bursitis, knee pain, PFS, AKPS, and other diagnoses

Hip and knee pain are often a result of poor pelvic muscle performance in combination with poor walking habits. This combination creates tracking problems in the hip socket or excessive rotation at...
Simply put, anterior knee pain is pain in the front of the knee. It has multiple causes including tendons (patellar tendon), bone/cartilage (kneecap or patellofemoral pain), growth plates (Osgood-Schlatters), etc. Sports Medicine doctors use clues from your history (when the pain started, where you feel it, when or how it gets worse) and exam to help hone in on the exact cause. Sometimes X-rays or ultrasounds are used as well. Once the correct diagnosis is made, treatment plans are discussed and in most cases patients get better with minimal loss of time from work, sports or activities.

Anterior knee pain may occur in the following individuals:

  • Adolescents and healthy young adults, especially girls
  • People who are overweight
  • Runners, jumpers, skiers, bicyclists, and soccer players, who exercise often

Pain is often felt when:

  • Below the kneecap
  • On the sides of the kneecap
  • Behind the kneecap

If any of the above are present then it would be best to see your primary care physician or consult with an orthopedic.

Anterier knee pain means that there is pain on the front side of the knee.  At one time most thought it was due to the cartilage under the patella being irritated and inflammed.  However, we now know that many different structures can be involved.  Most commonly it can be an overuse injury caused by muscle imbalance.  A full assessment by your health care provider will determine which muscles are overactive, underactive, and which structures need strengthening as well as making sure the joints above and below the knee are also functioning properly. With the knee being located inbetween the hip and ankle, it will compensate for any issues that are related to the hip and ankle, still causing overuse to those same knee structures. 

Anterior knee pain can be the cause of muscular imbalancement of overactive muscles and under active muscles. The most common overactive muscles that are responsible for many knee related syndromes are the IT band (which can cause "Runners Knee"), lateral hamstring (bicep femoris), rectus femoris and patella tendon (overactivity can cause "Jumpers Knee"). Common underactive muscles that do not activate properly during movement are the vastus medialis oblique (VMO), medial hamstring (semitendenous and semimembranous) and the medial gastrocnemis. To help rectify the anterior knee pain, stretch your hamstrings, IT Band and lateral gastrocnemis and strengthen the VMO, Medial Hamstring & Gastrocnemis.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.