Patellar Grind Test

If patients complain about pain in their kneecaps, you can gauge their pain with the Patellar Grind Test and determine if they have a patellofemoral pain syndrome.

By Matt Olivares on Jul 15, 2024.


Fact Checked by RJ Gumban.

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What is the Patellar Grind Test?

Before we talk about the , let’s first discuss what Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome is.

The kneecap is also known as the patella. When a person has Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome, it means they are experiencing pain in the front of their knees, specifically around the kneecaps.

This pain can be aggravated by simply walking or running, especially up and down stairs. It can also be aggravated by kneeling, squatting, and even sitting down with one or both knees bent. This pain can prevent people from carrying out certain activities or actions, especially walking, which most people do a lot on a daily basis.

The Patellar Grind Test was developed to assess Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome in patients. It’s a simple physical examination technique that physical therapists and adjacent professionals perform by applying pressure on the patella to see if patients feel any grinding sensations or pain, which are possible indicators of damage around the patellofemoral joint.

This particular physical examination technique is easy to perform and requires no special equipment to be conducted. Plus, it doesn’t take much time to accomplish it, meaning you can get results as soon as you finish it.

Check out this video to see how the Patellar Grind Test works:

How to conduct the Patellar Grind Test

As mentioned earlier, conducting this test is easy, and we’ll show you the ropes! But before that, the one thing you need for this test is a flat surface, preferably an examination table. A bed should suffice, but the mattress should not be so soft that patients will sink in the middle.

Once you have that in the examination space, you’re all set! Just follow these instructions to conduct the Patellar Grind Test:

  • Tell your patient to lie down in a supine position (lying face up).
  • Tell them to extend the knee that is affected.
  • Position yourself beside the knee that is affected.
  • Place one of your hands on the distal end of the patient’s thigh, just above the affected knee.
  • Place your other hand on the patella.
  • Tell your patient that you are about to apply pressure on their patella, and once you do, the patient must gently and gradually contract their quadriceps muscle by attempting to straighten their knee against your hand.
  • Once the patient understands what to do, apply pressure on their patella.
  • While applying pressure on their patella, move your hand back and forth along the trochlear groove of the patella.

These are the only things you must do to successfully conduct the Patellar Grind Test.

How to interpret the findings of the Patellar Grind Test

Now that you know what to do to perform the Patellar Grind Test on a patient, it’s time to learn how to interpret the results.

You will get your answers during the part while applying pressure on the patient’s patella and moving your hand back and forth along the patella’s trochlear groove.

The results are negative if the patient does not feel any pain or a grinding sensation while you are performing the aforementioned action. Though just because it is negative, it doesn’t mean that it’s impossible for them not to have Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome.

The results are positive if the patient feels pain or a grinding sensation while you perform the action. Pain or a grinding sensation in the kneecap indicates Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome and related conditions like Chondromalacia Patella and Patellar Tendinopathy.

Whether or not the test results are positive or negative, the next step is to endorse the patient for further examination to confirm the findings and make an official diagnosis (or not).

When is it best to conduct the Patellar Grind Test?

Earlier, we mentioned that the next step you must take after conducting this test is to endorse them for other tests. This is because the Patellar Grind Test should not be used as the sole test to diagnose a patient because there might be more to their condition than what the Patellar Grind Test can supposedly detect.

Given this, the best time to conduct the Patellar Grind Test is during a comprehensive patient examination, including other tests. By including this as part of such examinations, healthcare professionals can assess a patient from numerous angles. Doing so paints a clearer picture of their condition, and professionals can cover more ground when making an official diagnosis and developing care plans.

Now, you’re probably wondering how one determines if the Patellar Grind Test should be part of a comprehensive examination. There are two ways to find out:

  • The patient sets up an appointment to examine their knees because of pain.
  • You check the patient’s medical history and see that they are at risk of developing Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome, or if they already have it.

Who can conduct the Patellar Grind Test?

Since the Patellar Grind Test is technically a physical examination technique, the following professionals can conduct this test on their patients:

  • Physical Therapists
  • Physiotherapists
  • Orthopedists
  • Sports Physicians

It can’t be overstated how it’s important that only healthcare professionals who are highly trained and experienced in assessing, dealing with, and treating musculoskeletal conditions should be the ones to administer this. This is so the findings and the interpretations of results are well-informed and can be trusted.

Physiotherapists and orthopedists are the professionals that can make official diagnoses based on the results of this test, plus they can formulate treatment plans for patients. Physical therapists can provide rehabilitation and exercise support for patients with Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome and/or similar conditions. Sports physicians are also allowed to conduct this test because many people dealing with Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome are athletes, given that many sports require a lot of running and jumping.

If, by any chance, you, the person reading this, are not a healthcare professional and you’re wondering if you can perform this on someone you know who has kneecap pains, under no circumstance should you even attempt this, even if the instructions are simple.

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What are the benefits of the Patellar Grind Test?

It’s an inexpensive test to conduct!

The Patellar Grind Test does not require any special equipment from a professional. All you need is a flat surface (preferably an examination table), and you’re all set! Another great thing about this test is that the instructions are not complicated. Plus, you can finish this test within five to ten minutes, making it not only a budget saver but also a time saver. This means that you can get results instantly as well, and you can pass the results on to other members of your team so they know what to consider when they conduct other tests on the patient.

It can help professionals determine what to do for the patient.

While we mentioned that the Patellar Grind Test should not be the sole assessment to be conducted on a patient, that does not mean it doesn’t have any value. The results of this test will not only help professionals confirm diagnoses, but they can also help them determine what they need to do for the patient.

Is the pain in the knee so bad that the patient should be diagnosed with Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome or a similar condition? Is surgery the only way to address their condition? What medicines should you prescribe and what are the dosages for each? Do we create a rehabilitation plan to help strengthen their knees?

These are just some of the questions that can be answered when you look at the test results of the Patellar Grind Test, especially when considering the results of other tests conducted on the patient.

It can be used as part of routine checkups.

Let’s say the patient has already been treated or is undergoing rehabilitation. You can include this test as part of their routine checkups to see if their kneecaps are getting better and stronger than when you first assessed the patient with this test. It’s a good way for you to determine if the patient’s condition is improving and if the rehabilitation or treatment plan that was implemented is working or not.

What if the patient already has already acute injuries or pathologies? Can this test still be used on them?
What if the patient already has already acute injuries or pathologies? Can this test still be used on them?

Commonly asked questions

What if the patient already has already acute injuries or pathologies? Can this test still be used on them?

No. If they are already dealing with acute injuries and other pathologies, then there is no need to conduct this test, especially if they have fractures and ligament injuries. It’s best to conduct a different exam instead.

Is the Patellar Grind Test painful?

More often than not, the Patellar Grind Test should not be painful despite it involving putting pressure on a person’s kneecap. At most, there should be mild discomfort. If they feel intense pain or intense discomfort, then that’s a sign that there is something wrong with their patella, though the pain may be the result of another condition.

Are there any risks regarding this test that I should be aware of?

The Patellar Grind Test is a low-risk physical examination technique. There should not be any problems, so long as the person conducting it knows what they are doing and has been highly trained to conduct such a test. That’s why we mentioned earlier in this guide that only trained and experienced professionals should conduct it. This is so excessive pressure and unwanted/aggravated injuries won’t happen.

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