Patellar Tendonitis

Patellar tendonitis, also known as jumper's knee, is a common overuse injury that affects the tendon connecting the patella (kneecap) to the shinbone.

Patellar Tendonitis
Patellar Tendonitis
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Your Guide to Understanding Patellar Tendonitis

What is Patellar Tendonitis?

Patellar tendonitis, also known as jumper's knee, is a condition characterized by inflammation and irritation of the patellar tendon. The patellar tendon connects the patella (kneecap) to the shinbone (tibia) and plays a crucial role in the functioning of the knee joint. This condition commonly affects athletes involved in sports that require repetitive jumping or running movements, such as basketball, volleyball, and track and field.

The main symptom of patellar tendonitis is pain and tenderness just below the kneecap. The pain may start off as a mild discomfort during physical activity and gradually worsen over time. It can also be accompanied by swelling and stiffness around the knee joint. The pain tends to worsen with activities that involve bending the knee, such as squatting, jumping, or climbing stairs. In severe cases, the pain may become constant and interfere with daily activities.

Patellar tendonitis occurs due to repetitive stress and overuse of the patellar tendon. The repeated jumping and landing motions place excessive strain on the tendon, leading to micro-tears and subsequent inflammation. Factors that can contribute to the development of this condition include poor biomechanics, muscle imbalances, inadequate warm-up or cool-down routines, improper footwear, and sudden increases in training intensity or duration.

Treatment for patellar tendonitis typically involves a combination of conservative measures and rehabilitation exercises. Resting the affected knee and avoiding activities that aggravate the symptoms is essential for allowing the tendon to heal. Applying ice packs to the area can help reduce inflammation and relieve pain. Physical therapy plays a vital role in strengthening the muscles surrounding the knee joint and improving overall lower limb biomechanics. Stretching exercises are also beneficial in maintaining flexibility and reducing tension on the patellar tendon.

In more severe cases, when conservative measures fail to provide relief, additional interventions may be considered. These may include the use of orthotic devices or braces to support the knee joint, extracorporeal shockwave therapy, or corticosteroid injections. However, it is important to note that these interventions are typically reserved for cases that are unresponsive to conservative treatment and should be discussed with a healthcare professional.

How can Physiotherapy help treat Patellar Tendonitis?

Physiotherapy services play a crucial role in alleviating the symptoms of Patellar Tendonitis. Physiotherapists utilize various techniques to reduce pain, promote healing, and restore function in the knee. They may employ exercises such as drop-squats, seated knee extensions, standing leg curls, and cardio to strengthen the muscles around the knee and support the patellar tendon.

Furthermore, physiotherapists use modalities like ice and compression to reduce inflammation and manage pain. Through a comprehensive approach that includes targeted exercises, manual therapy, and pain management strategies, physiotherapy helps individuals with Patellar Tendonitis recover and regain their mobility and quality of life.

What causes Patellar Tendonitis?

Patellar tendonitis is typically caused by repetitive stress and overuse of the patellar tendon. It commonly occurs in individuals who engage in activities that involve frequent jumping or running movements. When these activities are performed repeatedly, they put strain on the patellar tendon, leading to small tears and inflammation.

Several factors can contribute to the development of patellar tendonitis. Poor biomechanics, such as improper alignment of the leg and knee joint during movement, can increase the stress placed on the tendon. Muscle imbalances, where certain muscles surrounding the knee are stronger or tighter than others, can also contribute to the condition.

Inadequate warm-up or cool-down routines before and after physical activity can make the tendon more susceptible to injury. Wearing inappropriate footwear or sudden increases in training intensity or duration without proper conditioning can also increase the risk of developing patellar tendonitis.

What treatments might help Patellar Tendonitis?

The treatment for patellar tendonitis aims to improve the condition by addressing symptoms, promoting healing, and preventing further injury. Here are some ways treatment can help improve patellar tendonitis:

  • Pain management: Treatment may involve pain-relieving measures such as over-the-counter pain medications like ibuprofen or naproxen sodium, which can help alleviate pain and reduce inflammation in the affected area.
  • Rest and activity modification: Taking a break from activities that aggravate the condition, such as jumping or running, allows the inflamed tendon to heal. Gradual return to activity with proper modifications is often recommended to prevent re-injury.
  • Physical therapy: A physical therapist can provide targeted exercises to strengthen the muscles around the knee and improve flexibility. These exercises aim to correct any muscle imbalances, promote healing, and restore normal movement patterns.
  • Supportive devices: The use of knee braces, splints, or taping techniques may provide additional support and stability to the knee joint, helping to relieve stress on the patellar tendon.
  • Modalities: Therapeutic modalities such as ice or heat therapy, ultrasound, or electrical stimulation may be used as adjuncts to reduce pain, inflammation, and promote tissue healing.
  • Biomechanical assessment and correction: Identifying and addressing any underlying biomechanical issues, such as improper movement patterns or foot alignment, can help reduce strain on the patellar tendon and prevent future episodes of tendonitis.

Signs of Patellar Tendonitis:

The signs of patellar tendonitis, also known as jumper's knee, typically include:

  • Pain: Patellar tendonitis causes pain in the front of the knee, just below the kneecap. The pain may be sharp or dull and can range from mild to severe. It is often aggravated by activities that involve jumping, running, or kneeling.
  • Swelling: In some cases, swelling may occur around the patellar tendon. This swelling can make the area around the knee feel tender and sensitive to touch.
  • Stiffness and Tenderness: The knee may feel stiff and tight, especially after periods of rest or in the morning. The area around the patellar tendon may also be tender to palpation.
  • Difficulty with Activities: Patellar tendonitis can interfere with daily activities that involve bending or straightening the knee, such as climbing stairs, squatting, or jumping. Pain and discomfort may limit your ability to participate in sports or exercise.

Symptoms of Patellar Tendonitis:

The symptoms of patellar tendonitis, also known as jumper's knee, typically include:

  • Pain below the kneecap: You may experience pain just below the kneecap, specifically in the area where the patellar tendon connects the kneecap to the shinbone. The pain can be sharp or dull and may worsen with activities that involve jumping, running, or kneeling.
  • Swelling and tenderness: The affected area may become swollen and feel tender to the touch. You might notice some redness or warmth around the patellar tendon.
  • Stiffness and limited range of motion: Your knee may feel stiff and tight, especially after prolonged periods of rest or in the morning. The range of motion in your knee joint may also be reduced.
  • Pain during activities: Engaging in activities that put stress on the patellar tendon, such as running or jumping, can cause increased pain. The pain may worsen with repetitive movements or prolonged activity.
  • Pain after activity: After participating in physical activities, you may experience increased pain and discomfort in the front of your knee, which can persist for hours or even days.
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When is the right time to see a Physiotherapist for Patellar Tendonitis?

It is recommended to see a physiotherapist if you are experiencing symptoms of patellar tendonitis that persist or worsen over time. If you are noticing pain, swelling, or difficulty moving your knee, it may be a good time to seek professional help.

Additionally, if you are engaging in activities that involve repetitive jumping or running and you start to feel discomfort or notice any changes in your knee, it is advisable to consult with one of these healthcare professionals. They can assess your condition, provide a proper diagnosis, and recommend appropriate treatment options.

Early intervention is key when it comes to managing patellar tendonitis. Seeking care from a physiotherapist can help prevent the condition from worsening and potentially causing long-term damage. These professionals can provide effective treatment strategies, offer guidance on modifying activities or exercises, and help promote healing and recovery.

Meet our Lead Registered Physiotherapist

Brittany Pereira

Brittany Pereira

Registered Physiotherapist

Registered Physiotherapist with a degree from the University of Toronto

Brittany enjoys working with patients across age groups and backgrounds to help them move better, get stronger, understand their bodies and ultimately, feel more confident. She combines her knowledge and clinical experience to best serve her patients.

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