What is patellar tendonitis?

Tendonitis in the knee is called patellar tendinitis. Patellar tendonitis is inflammation in the tendon that connects the kneecap (patella) to the shinbone (tibia). It is also called “jumper’s knee.”

Causes of tendonitis in the knee

Tendonitis in the knee develops from repetitive stress on the knee, typically from overuse from sports. Tiny tears form in the tendon, which weaken and inflame the tendon after repetitive movements.

Other contributing factors include:

  • Tight leg muscles
  • Uneven muscle strength
  • Overweight or obesity
  • Improperly padded shoes
  • Feet, ankles and legs that are misaligned

Risk factors for tendonitis in the knee

People who play sports such as volleyball, basketball or tennis are at a higher risk of developing patellar tendonitis. Running, squatting and jumping put excessive stress on the tendons in the knee.

Symptoms of tendonitis in the knee

The most common symptoms of patellar tendonitis include pain and tenderness at the base of the kneecap. Pain may be mild at the onset but progressively worsen without prompt treatment.

Other symptoms of tendonitis in the knee include swelling and burning sensation

Diagnosis of tendonitis in the knee

Patellar tendonitis is diagnosed in a medical exam with your orthopedic or sports medicine physician. Your doctor will take a full medical history to understand your normal activity level, symptoms and when they occur, and remedies that reduce the pain.

Your doctor will also examine the knee, probe for pain and test range of motion in the knee joint. To determine if there is severe damage to the bones or tendons, the physician may also order an x-ray, MRI or ultrasound.

Treatments for tendonitis in the knee

Early treatments for patellar tendonitis include resting the leg and knee and anti-inflammatory medication.

Nonsurgical treatments for patellar tendonitis:

  • Physical therapy — the goal of physical therapy or rehabilitation is to strengthen the leg and knee muscles and reduce the pain.
  • Brace — during physical therapy, your physician may prescribe a brace or crutches to facilitate healing.
  • PRP injections — a PRP injection uses a patient’s own blood, puts it in a centrifuge to centralize the growth factors and then injects it back into the affected area of the knee to promote healing.

Surgery is indicated when less invasive treatments are not successful. Your physician will determine if you require traditional open knee surgery or minimally invasive arthroscopic surgery. Arthroscopic surgery requires less recovery time.

Recovery from tendonitis in the knee

Recovery from patellar tendonitis depends upon the severity of your case. The longer you continue your normal routine before treatment, the longer your recovery will be.

It is also important to follow your physician and physical therapist’s instructions completely in order to get back to your routine as quickly as possible.

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