Knee pain is one of the most common issues in older adults due to the increase of arthritis as we age, but it can also be a condition that affects active teenagers and young adults who participate in sports, especially girls. Often the pain is centered and towards the front of the knee, just underneath the kneecap. Because of the symptoms and who it targets, this type of knee pain is generally referred to as adolescent anterior knee pain.
The most common cause of the condition is often the result of overuse or inadequate stretching or strengthening exercises while training. Because the knee is made up of a bunch of smaller parts and because it is where the brunt of your weight is distributed, it is particularly susceptible to damage caused by misalignment, activity, training, overuse, or misuse. The knee is one of the hinge joints meant to bend in one direction, but we often try to twist rather than stepping to change direction.
There are other factors that may contribute to adolescent anterior knee pain:
- Imbalance of thigh muscles (quadriceps and hamstrings) that support the knee joint
- Tight quadriceps and hamstring muscles
- Problems with alignment of the legs between the hips and the ankles
- Using improper sports training techniques or equipment
- Changes in footwear or playing surface
- Overdoing sports activities, or changes in the type of training
Symptoms typically are limited to a dull pain that begins gradually and is usually aggravated by activity, but you might also experience popping or cracking if you take a climbing motion or when you stand. You might also have pain while doing activities or even at night. However, things like swelling or more serious pain might be reason to see a doctor.
To treat the condition, in most cases, simple measures like rest, over-the-counter medication, and strengthening exercises can alleviate the pain and help you return to regular activity. You may also need to make some changes in activity to low-impact exercise or rest, do physical therapy exercises like leg raises, use ice packs, or even have specific footwear or knee braces.
Other things that might help include:
- Wearing shoes appropriate to your activities
- Warming up thoroughly before physical activity
- Incorporating stretching into your warm-up routine, and stretching after physical activity
- Reducing any activity that has hurt your knees in the past
- Limiting the total number of miles you run in training and competition
As with most medical things though, if the pain is not going away, you should talk to your doctor who can determine the cause and see if further treatment is needed.
This article is brought to you by Dr. Brandon Downs. Dr. Downs can help you
understand your pain and if surgery is right for you. Find Dr.Downs at:
Hughston Clinic Orthopaedics, Centennial Medical Center in the Physician’s Park Building 2400 Patterson Street Suite 300, Nashville, Tn 37203 (615) 342-6300 Hughston.com and Orthopaedic Specialists, 415 Henslee Drive in the Creekside Center, Dickson, Tn 37055 (615) 375-8287, Orthopaedicspecialists.com.