Our knees handle a lot of stress and pressure when we’re active, so it should come as no surprise that they are one of the most common areas for tendonitis to develop. When inflammation affects the patellar tendon in your knee, it’s classified as patellar tendonitis. In today’s blog, we take a closer look at patellar tendonitis and how physical therapy can help treat the condition.
What Is Patellar Tendonitis?
Patellar tendonitis involves irritation or inflammation of the patellar tendon, which sits on the front of your knee joint and connects your kneecap to your shin bone. The condition is also known as jumper’s knee, because it often develops in athletes and runners who do a lot of running, jumping and pushing off of their feet and knees. Done too forcefully or repetitively, this can overstress the knee joint and the patellar tendon and lead to inflammation onset. In fact, overuse is the most common reason for patellar tendonitis development.
Overuse and overstress are the two driving forces behind patellar tendonitis, but other factors can make you more likely to develop the condition. Some of those factors include being overweight, which puts more stress on your knee with every step, single-sport specialization and not taking enough time off during the offseason to allow the knee to rest and recover from the strain of the season. Athletes that regularly push off and land on hard surfaces, like runners, basketball players and volleyball players are all at a heightened risk for developing patellar tendonitis.
The most common symptom of patellar tendonitis is pain and discomfort, especially right at the beginning of activity or at its conclusion. You may not notice the pain during the middle of activity, but it tends to be most uncomfortable as you’re gearing up for or recovering after activity. Other symptoms include localized knee swelling, tenderness and discomfort when jumping or pushing off the knee.
Treating Patellar Tendonitis With Physical Therapy
Patellar tendonitis is most commonly diagnosed with a physical examination and by talking with the patient about their symptoms. Because of this, you can typically receive an accurate diagnosis from a physical therapist directly instead of heading to a primary care physician to be referred to a PT. At our clinic, we’ll ask about what symptoms you’re dealing with and how they present, and then we’ll take a closer look at your knee with some physical movement tests and flexibility exercises.
While nobody likes to be in pain or discomfort, a diagnosis of patellar tendonitis is actually a pretty welcomed diagnosis because it is a mild condition that doesn’t involve any significant ligament or tendon tearing. The condition also tends to respond well to a physical therapist-guided rehab program that involves some conservative techniques. Oftentimes this involves rest, ice and medications in the short-term.
Those passive techniques are often paired with active strength training exercises. Physical therapy for patellar tendonitis has two goals – to reduce inflammation and to help the tendon heal. Your therapist will walk you through some specific physical therapy exercises that strengthen the supportive tissues around the tendon, because taking strain off the knee by building other muscle groups can help protect the tendon. This may involve working to improve and strengthen thigh muscles, and your physical therapist can explain which movements help build these muscles.
Odds are you’ll see improvements and fewer instances of knee pain after just a couple of treatments, and we can give you the tools to manage any future recurrences on your own. You don’t need to deal with moderate knee discomfort before or after activity, especially if ignoring the pain can put you at a heightened risk for an eventual tear. Treat the condition head on by syncing up with a physical therapist and let us get you back to moving without pain. For more information, contact the talented team at OrthoRehab Specialists today.