Kneecap pain, that sharp persistent pain right under or around the kneecap, can be highly frustrating to your daily routine. This is especially true of athletes and otherwise active people, from runners to golfers to tennis players to gardners, who depend on a healthy and functioning knee to enjoy their favorite activities. It can be even worse if kneecap pain is affecting your livelihood for those who work in a physical profession. 

While some forms of kneecap pain can be the result of a minor injury that can improve in a short period of time with minimal treatment, others can be the result of a more serious condition that can develop into a chronic problem. How can you know when kneecap pain is the result of a serious injury that requires treatment? 

By learning about the different causes of kneecap pain you can educate yourself as a patient to make a more informed decision about your care. You should always take a cautious approach, and kneecap pain that doesn’t improve in a few days or any pain that is severe should always be checked out by a qualified physician. 

The Outpatient Joint Replacement Center of America team has created the following informational overview of kneecap pain to help you learn more. If you have any questions, or just want to learn more about how we can help, we welcome you to reach out at any time. 

What Are The Primary Types Of Injury And Conditions That Cause Kneecap Pain?

Kneecap pain is also referred to as anterior knee pain. This is because the main source of pain is in the front of the knee, or in the anterior part of the knee joint. Yet another term for kneecap pain is patellofemoral pain, which refers to the patella, or kneecap, and the femur, or thigh bone. 

Generally, this type of kneecap pain develops due to an increase in pressure between the femur and the kneecap. This can be the result of a knee injury from overuse, a muscle imbalance, or a misalignment of the knee joint. In some cases, people with structural or mechanical problems in the feet can develop kneecap pain due to the excessive stress this places on the knee. 

People who who engage in the following types of physical activities are most likely to develop kneecap pain:

  • Running 
  • Cycling
  • Basketball
  • Tennis 
  • Any physical activity that involves repetitive stair climbing or squatting

Still in other cases, kneecap pain can be related to another knee injury or a degenerative condition such as arthritis. 

Signs and Symptoms of Serious Kneecap Pain and Injuries to the Knee Joint

As stated above, see a doctor for kneecap pain or pain in the front of the knee that does not improve in a few days to a week at most, is becoming increasingly painful, or suddenly worsens. Signs of more serious kneecap pain to watch for also include:

  • Pain throughout the knee that may be difficult to pinpoint
  • Kneecap pain that worsens when climbing stairs
  • A grinding or popping sensation in or around the knee joint that is accompanied by pain
  • Visible swelling
  • Inability to support or bear weight
  • Stiffness or locking

Commonly, mild aching pain without mechanical catching is benign and does not require invasive treatment. Delaying treatment can increase the risk of pain worsening or a new injury occurring. 

How Do Doctors Diagnose and Treat Kneecap Pain?

When you meet with a doctor regarding persistent or chronic kneecap pain, you can expect to undergo the following steps: 

  • Review of your medical and treatment history
  • Discussion of your specific symptoms and how they are affecting daily activities
  • A physical examination
  • Diagnostic imaging, such as an X-ray or MRI

Upon diagnosis of the underlying cause of kneecap pain, treatment will almost always begin with a course of conservative treatment options. In many cases, kneecap pain related to misalignment of the knee joint can be improved with physical therapy, periods of rest and physical activity modification. 

If the kneecap pain is related to an injury or degenerative condition such as arthritis, doctors will still recommend fully exploring conservative treatments before exploring surgical options. While it is not possible to turn back the clock on knee joint degeneration, it is possible to manage symptoms and slow the rate of breakdown. 

When Should I Consider Surgery for Kneecap Pain? 

If weeks or months have gone by without conservative treatments bringing the kneecap pain relief necessary for a good quality of life, it may be time to explore surgical options. 

The specific type of surgery for kneecap pain will depend on the nature of the injury or condition. While surgery is rarely recommended for misalignment, procedures to relieve pressure on the knee or realign anatomy can sometimes be performed. 

If the source of front of the knee pain is related to severe knee joint damage from arthritis or another form of joint degeneration, a partial or total knee replacement surgery may be the recommended course of action. This where all or part of the damaged joint surface is carefully removed and replaced with an artificial or prosthetic joint. 

What About Minimally Invasive Knee Replacement Surgery?

Traditional knee replacement surgeries surgeries performed in a hospital can be undesirable, particularly due to the larger incision and overnight hospitalization that is typical. However, new approaches and advances in technology have enabled less, or minimally invasive knee replacement that can be performed in an outpatient surgery center. Patients undergoing minimally invasive procedures can enjoy advantages that include a shorter recovery time, reduced scarring and decreased infection risk. 

If you’re suffering from kneecap pain related to joint damage and you have fully explored and exhausted conservative therapies, please reach out to OJRCA. Our experienced and compassionate will sit down with you, perform a thorough evaluation and help you better understand the full range of treatment options. If you have any questions or just want to learn more about our state-of-the-art facilities, evidence-based methods and procedures, or our advanced pain protocols, don’t hesitate! At OJRCA, we’re committed to treating every patient like family.  

We’ve found that in the majority of cases, total joint replacement surgery performed as an outpatient surgery is proven as an effective treatment for patients with knee joint pain. Call us at 813-492-4412 or reach out online.


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