Is Your Knee Pain the Result of Fat Pad Impingement?

Do you suffer from anterior knee pain and inflammation? If so, fat pad impingement could be to blame.

Is Your Knee Pain the Result of Fat Pad Impingement?

Also known as Hoffa’s syndrome or fat pad syndrome, impingement is an injury in which the soft tissue that lies beneath the kneecap becomes pinched at the end of the thigh bone. The condition creates extreme pain below the kneecap and along the sides of the patellar tendon. Pain may worsen with prolonged standing or when the leg is straightened.

What Causes Fat Pad Impingement?

The soft tissue under the kneecap can become impinged due to a forceful, direct blow to the front of the knee. This may occur during a fall, a football tackle or a motor vehicle accident, for example.

Certain physical conditions and characteristics may increase the risk of Hoffa’s syndrome. Patients with a history of hyperextending the knee are more likely to suffer this injury, as are patients who have tight quadriceps muscles. Osteoarthritis, scarring in the soft tissues of the knee and a forward-tipping pelvis can also boost the chance of this painful injury.

How Is Fat Pad Impingement Diagnosed?

A thorough physical examination along with an assessment called “Hoffa’s test” may be sufficient to provide a definitive diagnosis of this condition. This test involves placing pressure on the patellar tendon while the patient straightens the affected leg. If this action causes knee pain, the patient probably has Hoffa’s syndrome.

Anterior knee pain can be caused by many conditions and injuries, including patellar tendonitis, stress fracture, a meniscal tear or bursitis. For this reason, an orthopedic medicine specialist may request an MRI or other imaging tests to arrive at a diagnosis of Hoffa’s syndrome.

What Are the Treatment Options?

Most patients with Hoffa’s syndrome find relief from knee pain and tissue inflammation through conservative treatment; surgery is rarely required.

A physical medicine and rehabilitation physician may recommend a number of non-invasive measures in treating fat pad syndrome. Some of those options include:

  • Resting the affected leg
  • Avoiding activities that stress the knee
  • Using cold therapy to reduce inflammation and alleviate pain
  • Taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for relief from pain and swelling
  • Getting electrotherapy treatments, such as ultrasound or a TENS unit
  • Doing physical therapy exercises for improved muscle strength and flexibility
  • Taping the upper part of the kneecap to give the soft tissues underneath more space

To determine whether you are suffering from fat pad impingement, schedule a consultation with a local physical medicine and rehabilitation physician today for an evaluation of your anterior knee pain.

Robert Engelen, DO
Dr. Engelen served as a Lieutenant in the Navy and operated as the medical officer for Marines in North Carolina and for a deployment to Afghanistan. He has served as a team physician for a high school and a Division II Collegiate athletic sports team in Pittsburgh, and currently serves as the team physician for West Jordan High School.

Dr. Engelen has a special interest in fluoroscopic procedures, diagnostic ultrasound and ultrasound guided procedures, regenerative medicine, biomechanical analysis, and treatment of all sports and spine injuries. His unique practice focuses on non-surgical treatments.
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About Robert Engelen, DO

Dr. Engelen served as a Lieutenant in the Navy and operated as the medical officer for Marines in North Carolina and for a deployment to Afghanistan. He has served as a team physician for a high school and a Division II Collegiate athletic sports team in Pittsburgh, and currently serves as the team physician for West Jordan High School. Dr. Engelen has a special interest in fluoroscopic procedures, diagnostic ultrasound and ultrasound guided procedures, regenerative medicine, biomechanical analysis, and treatment of all sports and spine injuries. His unique practice focuses on non-surgical treatments.