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Causes of Knee Pain in the Front of the Knee Cap

author image Jody Murray
Based in Connecticut, Jody Murray, has been writing and teaching in the field of sports medicine since 1997. Murray has an M.A. in exercise physiology from UNC-Chapel Hill and a B.S. in athletic training from Springfield College. Murray is also a licensed acupuncturist.
Causes of Knee Pain in the Front of the Knee Cap
Jumper's knee is a type of patellofemoral pain. Photo Credit volleyball girl image by alice rawson from Fotolia.com

Pain in the front of the knee is most often associated with the patella or kneecap, and is generally classified as patellofemoral pain. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, contributing factors to patellofemoral pain include overuse, muscle imbalance and inadequate stretching. Typically, all patellofemoral pain will include pain with ascending and descending stairs, and pain with prolonged sitting. Patellofemoral pain can be difficult to manage and should never be ignored.

Patellofemoral Malalignment Syndrome

According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, when the patella not only glides up and down, but also tilts and rotates, there are various points of contact between the under-surface of the patella and the femur. When the patella is badly aligned, the under-surface of the patella can become irritated and painful. Symptoms include pain ascending and descending stairs, and with prolonged sitting. Initial treatment includes ice for inflammation and rest from activities. A physical therapist or athletic trainer can provide a program of specific strengthening and stretching activities, and may instruct the athlete in a special taping technique.

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Chondromalacia Patella

When patella malalignment syndrome is left untreated, it can progress to include chondromalacia patella, or CMP. According to the Mayo Clinic, CMP is a general term indicating damage to the cartilage under the kneecap. In addition to pain and stiffness, there may be a sensation of grinding felt underneath the kneecap. Refraining from painful activity, ice and physical therapy are the usual courses of treatment.

Patella Tendinitis

Patella tendinitis, also called jumper's knee, is an inflammation of the tendon below the knee cap, and is most often seen in athletes who do a lot of jump, such as in basketball and volleyball. Symptoms of jumper's knee are sharp pains below the kneecap, with stiffness and local swelling. According to the Mayo Clinic, most people with patella tendinitis find pain relief and improvement using conservative treatments such as ice and rest. A patella tendon strap, worn below the patella, can often decrease the symptoms of jumper's knee and allow the athlete to return to activity.

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