General pain located around the front of the knee is often referred to as patellofemoral pain, which relates to the patella (kneecap) and femur (thigh bone). This pain may be caused by overuse, excessive force, or instability of the patella due to weak and/or tight musculature. This condition is commonly found in young athletic females. Damage to the cartilage under the patella or soft tissues around the front of the knee may also cause a similar onset of symptoms. Patellofemoral pain most commonly results from improper hip and quadriceps strength, causing the patella to experience abnormal forces that result in pain and limitations.
Patellofemoral pain generally responds well to conservative treatment with activity modification and a bout of formal physical therapy. The physical therapy focuses on improving mechanics, as well correcting muscular imbalances of the hip and quadriceps. This has been shown to offer relief for a considerable amount of time, allowing patients to return to most normal activities.
Conservative treatment of the knee includes activity modification, physical therapy, medications, and injections. While it is important to use and move a painful knee, patients are
cautioned to avoid overuse. Keeping the activity level below the threshold of pain and aggravation will help to improve the symptoms and avoid further irritation. This process is often aided by attending formal physical therapy to learn how to maintain range of motion, strength and promote proper mechanics. Some patients also find it beneficial to wear a compressive knee sleeve to reduce swelling and comfort.