What is tendonitis in the quadriceps?

Quadriceps tendonitis is inflammation in the quadriceps muscle and tendon that is caused by overuse or alignment problems in the knee structures.

Tendonitis in the lower extremity can affect the knee, hip, quadriceps or ankle.

Causes of quadriceps tendonitis

A majority of quadriceps tendonitis injuries are due to overuse from playing sports such as volleyball, running or soccer. Quick turns, starts, stops, jumping and running contribute to quadriceps tendonitis.
Other factors that contribute to quadriceps tendonitis:
  • Excessive frequency, intensity or duration of training
  • Inappropriate footwear
  • Poor flexibility
  • Misalignment of the foot, ankle or leg
  • Obesity

Risk factors for quadriceps tendonitis

Risk factors for quadriceps tendonitis include:
  • Athletes — people who play volleyball, run or play soccer
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Lupus
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Leukemia
  • Gout
  • Chronic renal failure

Symptoms of quadriceps tendonitis

The most common symptom of quadriceps tendonitis is pain at the bottom of the thigh, above the patella (kneecap). The pain will intensify as you move your knee.
Other symptoms of quadricep tendonitis include:
  • Swelling around the quad tendon
  • Sensitivity to touch
  • Warmth or burning pain in the affected area
  • Stiffness in the knee in the early morning

Diagnosis of quadriceps tendonitis

Your provider will diagnose quadriceps tendonitis during a full physical examination.

In the physical exam, you will be assessed for range of motion, joint stability and flexibility. Your physician will also look for torn or ruptured tendons in the quadriceps and discuss training that led to the injury.

In some cases, your doctor will order an x-ray or MRI to determine if there are more severe tears or fractures that are causing the pain.

Treatment for quadriceps tendonitis

Early treatment for quadriceps tendonitis include rest and anti-inflammatory medication.

Nonsurgical treatment for quadricep tendonitis
Physical therapy in the early stages of quadricep tendonitis is aimed at decreasing pain and reducing inflammation. The physical therapies may use massage, ultrasound or electrical stimulation to speed the healing process and minimize further damage. The physical therapist will also prescribe exercises to stretch and strengthen the injured area and correct muscle imbalances.

Bracing or taping the patella can help you continue to do day-to-day activities without pain.

Orthotics can improve knee alignment and function of the patella.

Surgical treatment for quadriceps tendonitis
Surgery is a last resort after nonsurgical options have been exhausted. Surgery stimulates healing through restoring the blood supply to the injured quadriceps. The damaged tissue is removed and the tendon is repaired. Most patients who require surgery will have arthroscopic surgery, which is less invasive, and patients can go home that day.

Recovery from quadriceps tendonitis

If you treated quadricep tendonitis with nonsurgical therapies, the injury can heal with four to six weeks of physical therapy. The goal of the physical therapy is to reduce the pain and inflammation as well as improve function of the quadricep.

Physical therapy after surgery is rigorous and involves the full team of specialists, including your orthopedic surgeon. Your team will work together to develop a treatment plan especially for your case.

As you recover, the exercises will intensify to ensure you are fully healed before resuming your normal activity level.

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