Patellar Tendonitis describes pain around the patella, or knee cap. Also known as "Jumper's Knee", Patellar Tendonitis can result from activities involving a contraction of the quadriceps. The quadriceps muscle is connected by a tendon to the patella and then the patella is connected to the shin bone, or tibia. When the quadriceps muscle contracts, the lower leg extends through the patella tendon. A quick and forceful contraction of the quadriceps is required to power activities like kicking, explosive activities or jumping, thus the term "Jumper's Knee". Patellar Tendonitis can also result from any activity in which the quadriceps muscle contracts, such as running, biking, skiing or climbing
Symptoms of Patella Tendonitis
The first signs of Patellar Tendonitis are usually pain and stiffness. The pain can usually be localized to an exact location, and is usually between the knee cap (patella) and where the tendon attached to the shin bone (tibia). Jumping, landing or certain side-to-side motions can cause a sharp pain. After the activity, the pain usually subsides to a dull pain, and the knee is stiff.
Causes of Patellar Tendonitis
Increasing levels of activity or intensity can cause Jumper's Knee. In Arizona, the condition is common when beginning to run trails on a regular basis. It can also result from increased activity like jumping rope, playing basketball or lifting weights. In endurance athletes, the repetitive nature of running or cycling can lead to stress that causes small tears in the tendon. The body is unable to heal the tears before the next workout, and patellar tendonitis results after time.
Aside from occurring in athletes who increase intensity or frequency of activity, Patellar Tendonitis can occur in those with increased body weight, patella alta, and muscular imbalance. Muscular imbalance can cause the patella to glide differenty across the patella fossa. Instead of moving smoothly, the muscle imbalance causes the patella to rub against the bone by pulling it to the side. This is especially common in those who have chondromalacia patella along with patellar tendonitis.
Home therapy for Jumpers Knee
Recommended home treatment for Patellar Tendonitis includes two weeks of decreasing the intensity and frequency of activity. Ice and rest will help allow the patellar tendon to heal. The greatest relief results from decreasing explosion, jumping and climbing activities. Cyclists should double-check position on the bike and may need a bike fitting to ensure proper form. Runners should find flat ground and avoid climbing.
When to Seek Treatment for Patellar Tendonitis
If pain continues for several weeks after rest or increases, you should seek treatment. The problem can usually be identified by a physical exam, but sometimes advanced imaging is required if the provider is concerned about internal knee damage.
In the early stages, Patellar Tendonitis can be easily treated. Longer and more involved treatment is required for more severe cases, and it is possible for the tendon to actually tear in severe cases.
Treatment centers on managing muscle spasms, lowering inflammation and decreasing pain. Your provider will evaluate muscle imbalances and recommend stretches and exercises to correct imbalances and prevent future occurrences. The patella may heal faster with the use of a patellar tendon strap which decreases the pressure on the patella.
Intensity and frequency of activity should be slowly increased over time. Increasing the amount of exercise by less than 10% per week will prevent most overuse injuries, along with ice and rest.
Seek help from an experienced provider before mild cases of Patellar Tendonitis become severe injuries.