Patellar tendinitis, also known as jumper’s knee, is an injury to the patellar tendon, the cord like tissue that connects the kneecap (patella) to the shinbone. It is an overuse injury, caused by repeated movements to a particular part of the body, in turn causing tissue damage.
Patellar tendinitis is most commonly seen in athletes who are involved in sports that require frequent jumping, such as in basketball, volleyball and gymnastics; however, even individuals who do not participate in contact sports can sustain the injury.
Treatment options for Patellar tendinitis typically involves physical therapy, where stretching and strengthening the muscles around the knee is vital to recovery.
The very first symptom of patellar tendinitis is pain between the kneecap and where the tendon attaches to the shinbone. The pain in the knee may:
- Worsen when participating in sports
- Be present only when involved in physical activity or just after an intense workout
- Interfere with daily movements such as walking or climbing stairs
Often the tendon feels very stiff first thing in the morning.
Patellar tendinitis is a common overuse injury, caused by repeated stress to the patellar tendon. The stress results in irritation or tear to the tendon, which the body tries to repair; however, since the tears multiply, they cause pain and inflammation in the knee. When pain and damage to the tendon continues for more than a few weeks, it's called tendinopathy.
A combination of factors that may contribute to a higher risk of developing patellar tendinitis, include the following:
- Physical activity that might add stress to the tendon (running, jumping)
- Tight leg muscles that can increase strain on the patellar tendon
- Muscular imbalance
Ignoring the pain in the patellar tendon can cause serious complications. Knee pain and reduced muscular function can persist and even larger damage to the tissue may occur. If not treated, it can progress into a more serious condition such as patellar tendiopathy.
Doctors typically recommend less invasive treatments to start with before considering other options such as surgery. Some of these treatment options include:
- Pain relievers (Ibuprofen, naproxen sodium) that can help provide short term relief from pain associated with patellar tendinitis
- Physical therapy techniques (Stretching and strengthening exercises) that can help reduce muscle spasm, lessen strain on the patellar tendon and help extend the knee
- Patellar tendon strap: A strap that applies pressure to the patellar tendon and can help distribute pressure away from the tendon and direct it through the strap instead to ease pain
- Lontophoresis: A type of therapy that involves spreading a corticosteroid medicine on the skin and using a device that delivers a low electrical charge to push the medication through the skin.
Surgical and other procedures include:
· An ultrasound-guided corticosteroid injection to help relieve pain and ease discomfort
· A platelet-rich plasma injection to help promote new tissue formation and help heal damage to the tendon
· Surgical repair of the patellar tendon, if necessary
A few recommendations for reducing the risk of developing patellar tendinitis include:
- Icing the area and resting
- Avoiding any activities that can put stress on the patellar tendon
- Avoiding working through the pain
- Exercising regularly to help stretch and strengthen the muscles around the knee
- Improving techniques/getting professional instructions when starting a new sport or using exercise equipment