Do you experience pain in your knee, especially behind the kneecap, when you use stairs or participate in sports, for example? If so, the cause could be a change in cartilage structure, an imbalance in muscle structure, or a misalignment of the kneecap. These conditions can lead to “anterior knee pain” – so-called despite the fact that the pain seems to be coming from behind the kneecap. Anterior knee pain is experienced mainly by pubescent boys and girls and young women. Symptoms sometimes disappear and then reoccur after months or years – but in some cases they simply never go away. Surgery is rarely necessary, however. Instead, such knee pain is generally treated with physiotherapy and pain medication. The use of orthopedic supports or orthoses can also alleviate pain and ensure that the knee functions properly.
Causes and treatment options
Causes of kneecap pain
Kneecap pain can be triggered by various factors, whereby a clear cause cannot always be identified. For example, the kneecap (patella) might be deformed, or its position may have shifted slightly upwards, downwards, or to the side. Such changes interfere with physiological movement processes.
Other causes of kneecap pain include wear (i.e. osteoarthritis) that leads to the aforementioned upward shifting of the kneecap (patella). The medical term for this misalignment is “high-riding patella” (patella alta). This condition mainly manifests itself through pain in the kneecap, frequent shifting of the kneecap, or continual knee joint effusions.
Physiological changes at the back of the knee, or an imbalance in muscle structure due to incorrect training and exercise methods or use of the wrong sports shoes, can also lead to pain in the kneecap. Other causes include accidents and injuries. In many cases, kneecap pain occurs as a result of excessive participation in sports, which leads to a higher level of strain than the affected structures are capable of supporting. Strenuous physical activity, illnesses such as rheumatism and gout, and excess weight are also typical causes of kneecap pain.
Pain in the kneecap area
Pain in the kneecap area can be experienced by, among others, people who participate in jumping sports or track and field activities. Young women, and boys and girls in puberty (rapid growth of muscles and bones), also frequently experience kneecap pain. Symptoms become particularly noticeable when using stairs (walking downstairs can be especially painful) or when the knee remains bent for a long period of time. This means that prolonged periods of sitting, crouching, or sleeping with bent knees can lead to extensive pain.
Diagnosing anterior knee pain
A orthopedic specialist can determine the exact cause of knee pain by analyzing the symptoms described by the patient and examining the knee area. Here, the specialist examines not only the kneecap and knee joint but also the muscles, tendons, and ligaments around the knee joint. An orthopedist will also examine the patient’s spine, the way their legs are positioned, the shape of their feet, and the structure of their foot arches. The diagnosis can be made more reliable through the use of imaging techniques. For example, the shape and position of the kneecap can be evaluated with the help of X-ray images, while changes to cartilage structure can be identified using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) systems. The orthopedic specialist can then initiate an appropriate treatment program on the basis of the diagnosis and measures that enable the precise localization of the source of the pain.
Treating kneecap pain
It’s important to protect the knee joint when treatment begins. Pain medication should only be taken temporarily. It makes sense to carry out muscle training exercises that stretch shortened muscles and build up weak ones. Physiotherapy and medical supports or orthoses can provide long-term support to the knee. These so-called conservative treatment methods can eliminate symptoms in most cases.
However, surgery should be considered if pain in the kneecap persists despite the use of these methods, and this pain seriously affects a person’s quality of life. Orthopedic aids and physiotherapy can then be used to support the positive results of surgery over the long term.
Preventing pain in the kneecap area
Those who frequently participate in sports and remain physically active can take measures to minimize their risk of experiencing knee problems. In general, it’s important to avoid overstraining the knees. For example, the knee should be rested at the first sign of excess strain (e.g. slight pain). The use of medical aids to stabilize the knee can help prevent further damage in the early stages of a knee condition.
Anyone already experiencing knee pain should avoid to the greatest extent possible all types of sports that place great strain on the knees or could lead to a person falling on their knees (e.g. volleyball or handball). If for some reason it is impossible to avoid such sports, then the knee should at least be stabilized with supports and protected against specific shock loads such as those that can occur in volleyball, for example. Excessive strain on the kneecap – and thus pain – can also be prevented by ensuring sufficient periods of rest during training activities and by swimming or cycling, both of which tend to counteract the strain caused by other athletic activities.
Stabilizing the knee joint with orthopedic products
Medical supports can be used to stabilize the knee joint and thus contribute to the healing process for those individuals who experience persistent pain in their knee joint or have undergone knee surgery. GenuTrain® P3 is an active support that relieves pain caused by misalignment of the kneecap, as well as anterior knee pain and pain associated with patellar tip syndrome. It can be adapted to the individual needs of the wearer and is made of a light and stable material. The product’s integrated donning aid makes it easy to put on and take off, while its breathable and non-slip massage pads ensure an optimal hold on the leg and effective relief for the kneecap.