What is patellar tendinitis?
Patellar tendinitis is an injury to the tendon connecting your kneecap (patella) to your shinbone. The patellar tendon works with the muscles at the front of your thigh to extend your knee so you can kick, run and jump.
Patellar tendinitis, also known as jumper’s knee, is most common in athletes whose sports involve frequent jumping — such as basketball and volleyball. However, even people who don’t participate in jumping sports can get patellar tendinitis.
For most people, treatment of patellar tendinitis begins with physical therapy to stretch and strengthen the muscles around the knee.
How common is patellar tendinitis?
Patellar tendinitis is common. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
What are the symptoms of patellar tendinitis?
Pain is the first symptom of patellar tendinitis, usually between your kneecap and where the tendon attaches to your shinbone (tibia). The pain in your knee may:
- At first be present only as you begin physical activity or just after an intense workout
- Worsen until it interferes with playing your sport
- Eventually interfere with daily movements such as climbing stairs or rising from a chair
There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
When should I see my doctor?
You should contact your doctor if you have any of the following:
- Continues or worsens
- Interferes with your ability to perform routine daily activities
Is associated with swelling or redness about the joint
What causes patellar tendinitis?
Patellar tendinitis is a common overuse injury, caused by repeated stress on your patellar tendon. The stress results in tiny tears in the tendon, which your body attempts to repair. But as the tears in the tendon multiply, they cause pain from inflammation and weakening of the tendon. When this tendon damage persists for more than a few weeks, it’s called tendinopathy.
What increases my risk for patellar tendinitis?
There are many risk factors for patellar tendinitis, such as:
- Physical activity. Running and jumping are most commonly associated with patellar tendinitis. Sudden increases in how hard or how often you engage in the activity also add stress on the tendon, as can changing your running shoes.
- Tight leg muscles. Tight thigh muscles (quadriceps) and hamstrings, which run up the back of your thighs, can increase strain on your patellar tendon.
- Muscular imbalance. If some muscles in your legs are much stronger than others, the stronger muscles could pull harder on your patellar tendon. This uneven pull could cause tendinitis.
Diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is patellar tendinitis diagnosed?
During the exam, your doctor may apply pressure to parts of your knee to determine where you hurt. Usually, pain from patellar tendinitis is on the front part of your knee, just below your kneecap.
Your doctor may suggest one or more of the following imaging tests:
- X-rays. X-rays help to exclude other bone problems that can cause knee pain.
- This test uses sound waves to create an image of your knee, revealing tears in your patellar tendon.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). MRI uses a magnetic field and radio waves to create detailed images that can reveal subtle changes in the patellar tendon.
How is patellar tendinitis treated?
Doctors typically begin with less invasive treatments before considering other options, such as surgery.
Pain relievers such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) or naproxen sodium (Aleve, others) may provide short-term relief from pain associated with patellar tendinitis.
A variety of physical therapy techniques can help reduce the symptoms associated with patellar tendinitis, including:
- Stretching exercises. Regular, steady stretching exercises can reduce muscle spasm and help lengthen the muscle-tendon unit. Don’t bounce during your stretch.
- Strengthening exercises. Weak thigh muscles contribute to the strain on your patellar tendon. Exercises that involve lowering your leg very slowly after extending it are particularly helpful.
- Patellar tendon strap. A strap that applies pressure to your patellar tendon can help to distribute force away from the tendon and direct it through the strap instead. This may help relieve pain.
- This therapy involves spreading a corticosteroid medicine on your skin and then using a device that delivers a low electrical charge to push the medication through your skin.
If conservative treatments don’t help, your doctor may suggest other therapies, such as:
- Corticosteroid injection. An ultrasound-guided corticosteroid injection into the sheath around the patellar tendon may help relieve pain. But these types of drugs can also weaken tendons and make them more likely to rupture.
- Platelet-rich plasma injection. This type of injection has been tried in some people with chronic patellar tendon problems. Studies are ongoing. It is hoped the injections might promote new tissue formation and help heal tendon damage.
- In rare cases, if other treatments fail, your doctor might suggest surgical repair of the patellar tendon. Some procedures can be done through small incisions around your knee.
Lifestyle changes & Home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage patellar tendinitis?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with Patellar Tendinitis:
- Pain relievers. Over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen and naproxen sodium may provide short-term pain relief.
- Avoid activity that causes pain. You may need to practice your sport less often or temporarily switch to a lower impact sport. Working through pain can further damage your patellar tendon.
- Apply ice after activity that causes pain. Place ice in a plastic bag and wrap the bag in a towel. Or try an ice massage. Freeze water in a plastic foam cup and hold the cup as you apply the ice directly to your skin.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
- Patella Tendonitis (Tendinopathy). http://physioworks.com.au/injuries-conditions-1/patella-tendonitis-tendinopathy. Accessed 6 Feb 2017
- Patellar tendinitis. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/patellar-tendinitis/basics/definition/con-20024441. Accessed 6 Feb 2017
Review Date: August 3, 2017 | Last Modified: August 4, 2017