What is Knee Tendonitis?

A condition known as patellar tendonitis in the medical community and “jumper’s knee” in the sports realm, knee tendonitis impacts the tissue connecting the knee to the shin bone. It is a common overuse injury that occurs as a result of frequent stress on one’s patellar tendon. The patellar tendon functions with the quadriceps tendon and other muscles in the thigh to straighten the knee. This repeated strain eventually results in small tears in the tendon that multiply over time, causing inflammation and weakening the tendon. If untreated, knee tendonitis can lead to permanent and debilitating damage to the body.

Signs & Symptoms

As with any ailment, everybody is unique and experiences symptoms differently. However, there are several signs that commonly occur with this injury. The first onset of pain may coincide with the beginning of physical activity, or after exceptionally vigorous exercise. Initially, one may only experience discomfort during such physical activity. With time, the pain with unfortunately worsen and begin to interfere with everyday activity.

Those with patellar tendonitis will likely experience pain when walking, running, or jumping. Bending or straightening the leg will also prove to be a challenge. Swelling, pain, and/or tenderness of the patellar tendon (found just below the kneecap) are also common signs of knee tendonitis. Pain can gradually worsen, and begin to hinder athletic performance, exercise, and even routine movements such as ascending stairs or standing from a seated position. This pain is frequently centralized in the region between the patella and where the patellar tendon affixes it to the tibia.

Causes of Knee Tendonitis

A combination of factors contributes to the development of patellar tendinitis. Patellar tendonitis is most common in athletes who participate in sports that require frequent jumping – like basketball, volleyball, and hurdling. In fact, at least 20% of all jumping athletes will develop knee tendonitis. When the knee tendon tissues are repeatedly pushed too far and too quickly, it leads to stress in the bands of the patellar tendon. Hence, those who perform sprinting motions or high-intensity aerobics may be at risk of developing this injury. However, one does not have to be an athlete to be at risk of developing knee tendonitis.

Misalignment of the feet, ankles, and legs may increase your risk of developing knee tendonitis. Depending on their positioning, the femur and tibia bones will either increase or decrease pressure on the knee. Misalignment of these bones causes unequal weight distribution, inflicting unnecessary strain on the patellar tendon.

Rigid muscles in the thigh such as the quadriceps and hamstrings can increase strain on the patellar tendon. Tight leg muscles also inhibit the range of motion and can dramatically increase the risk of injury. Additionally, imbalances of the leg muscles, in which some muscles are stronger than others, can also prove detrimental to knee health. Uneven muscle strength can result in certain muscles pulling on the patellar tendon harder than others, ultimately leading to a potentially serious strain.

Those with chronic illnesses such as rheumatism, kidney disease, lupus, and obesity are also at a higher risk of developing knee tendonitis.

Prevention Methods

To prevent patellar tendonitis, it is important to ice and immobilize the knee at the first onset of pain. This, coupled with resting and stretching, is a great strategy to avoid developing knee tendonitis. Proper form and technique in exercise and sporting activities are also a great way to eliminate any possible strain on the patellar tendon.

One of the most common reasons why knee tendonitis develops into a very painful condition is avoidance and procrastination. It is detrimental to ignore any onset of discomfort; pushing through the pain only leads to more physical distress down the road. Instead of neglecting your body, it is important to seek immediate treatment for any ailments. 

A good warmup before any physical activity will prove to be doubly important to avoid a possible strain to the ligament. One should always stretch prior to beginning a workout or partaking in any sort of sporting activities, especially if they include jumping or sprinting.

Exercises to Combat Knee Tendonitis

Strong thigh muscles will help to support the proper function of the patellar tendon. Performing exercises such as squats, leg extensions, step-ups, and step-downs is a great way to combat the effects of patellar tendonitis.

A muscle roller is a great tool to expel any sign of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and helps to pinpoint muscle knots that lead to pain and limit mobility. Moving in short, controlled movements for one to two minutes on the roller can work wonders for your body.

Lie on your back with knees bent over a foam roller or rolled-up towel or large rolled-up towel and your heels on the floor. Then, lift the ankle and calf until your leg is as straight as possible while still maintaining the back of your knee to the roll. Hold the leg in this position for between five to ten seconds. Following, you’ll bend your knee and bring your heel back to the ground.

Rest and repeat up to twelve times.

As always, one should warm up before tackling any of the recommended exercises. Ideally, these exercises are performed under the strict supervision of a skilled physical therapist.

Physical Therapy Treatment Methods

Expert care is instrumental throughout any recovery process. The treatment of patellar tendinitis commonly begins with physical therapy to stretch and strengthen the muscles around the knee. Physical therapy is designed to alleviate long-term and short-term symptoms while training the body to avoid a similar injury in the future.

With physical therapy, pain is a manageable symptom of patellar tendonitis. Many doctors may also prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as naproxen or ibuprofen, in addition to physical therapy.

Any regimen should be under the guidance and supervision of a skilled Nassau County physical therapist. Proper technique of movement will limit excess strain on the body. A physical therapist can generate a fitness routine that is designed to strengthen the patellar tendon and its neighboring ligaments. With a consistent plan of action in place, the tissue will be mended to be able to cope with the stresses of physical activity.

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