Patellar Tendonitis

Patellar tendinitis pain can be quite deceptive. It is produced by strenuous physical activity and after a while, the pain decreases. Then, when you return to rest, the pain returns with even more force than before.

Patellar tendinitis is popularly known as ‘jumper’s knee’. This is because it is a frequent condition in those who perform sports activities that require continuous jumping such as basketball or volleyball. Other names for patellar tendinitis are patellar tendinopathy or patellar tendonitis. It occurs as a result of repetitive movements that cause damage, overload, or tissue irritation affecting the patellar tendon. This tendon is essential for the balance and flexibility it provides. Hence, when these types of conditions happen, the knee articulation becomes much more rigid and therefore, dysfunctional.

The patella rests on the front of the knee joint. When someone contracts or extends the knee, the lower area of the kneecap slides over the bones in that area. There are two tendons whose main function is to help fix the patella to the bones and muscles that support the knee. These tendons are the patellar tendon and the quadriceps tendon. When one of these becomes inflamed, the kneecap loses functionality. Therefore, there is an impairment of the normal movement of the joint. The resulting pain can be very severe.

An inadequate, constant and repetitive movement stresses the tendon and causes it to become inflamed. This is called micro trauma by repetition and is common in athletes. Other frequent causes of patellar tendinitis are when:

  • The patella is located higher than normal

  • Quadriceps muscles present weakness and a lack of flexibility

  • An injury occurs and it’s not treated properly

  • There is excessive stress put on the knee

  • Muscle fatigue is present

  • Inadequate footwear is used

Symptomatically, you feel a discomfort when you bend your knees. Usually, the pain appears when the movement starts, but then disappears when physical activity is performed. When returning to rest, the pain returns.

The main symptom of patellar tendonitis is pain, felt just below the kneecap. There is also a feeling of tension and stiffness in the knee. There are also many people who experience pain in the upper portion of the knee, mainly appearing when the muscles of that area are tensed. As noted, the pain goes away when you exercise, but then it reappears. If left untreated, the discomfort will become permanent.

Most often, patellar tendinitis is diagnosed based on the medical history and a physical examination. X-rays are sometimes ordered to confirm the diagnosis and only in very exceptional cases an MRI is indicated.

The first pain control measure is rest to reduce inflammation. Sometimes, it is necessary to immobilize the area, using a patellar band or knee brace. This provides the knee support and helps keep it immobilized. Analgesics and anti-inflammatories should certainly be considered, as long as they are advised by a physician or practitioner.

Using cold therapy is reported to help a lot to mitigate pain. It can be a little uncomfortable but is well worth it. To treat the knee, place some ice covered with cloth on the affected area several times a day. When doing so, make sure to lift the leg and hold it up for a few minutes when the pain appears while icing down the knee.

Only when conservative treatment does not work and patellar tendonitis becomes chronic is it recommended to treat the ailment with surgery, where the damaged part of the tissue that is inflamed is extracted. Sometimes, small cuts are made just on the sides of the tendon to decrease the pressure.

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