Anterior Knee Pain (Runner's Knee or Chondromalacia Patellae) - Diagnosis & Treatment

How is anterior knee pain diagnosed?

Your doctor will need to perform a physical examination to diagnose anterior knee pain. They may also recommend one or more of the following tests:

Blood tests

Some blood tests can help to identify or rule out certain types of arthritis. Blood test results may also help to reveal inflammation, which may be causing your knee pain.


An X-ray provides an image of your knee joint, which may help to rule out other causes of knee pain such as an injury.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

An MRI scan offers a more detailed look at the knee joint and surrounding tissues. It is often useful in identifying runner's knee.

How is anterior knee pain treated?

Treatment for anterior knee pain aims to reduce pressure on the knee. This can include:

Home care

In some cases, resting at home and icing the joint several times a day is sufficient to allow healing.

Pain relief

This may come in the form of:

  • Topical formulations such as creams or patches
  • Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen to reduce inflammation and swelling
  • Stronger medication such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which may be prescribed if the pain or swelling is severe or persists.


Non-weight-bearing exercises such as swimming or riding a stationary bicycle can help to strengthen your quadriceps, hamstrings, adductor and abductor muscles in the hips and thighs. Physiotherapy can help to build these muscles and prevent misalignment of your knee joint.


Arthroscopy, a minimally-invasive procedure, may be performed to allow the doctor to view the knee joint using a small camera. Your doctor may recommend one of several procedures, such as:

  • Lateral release, where some ligaments are cut to release tension and make it easier to move or to smooth the back of the knee cap.
  • Implanting a cartilage graft
  • Relocating the insertion of the thigh muscle.
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