Patellar tendinopathy (also known as: patellar tendonitis, and tendonitis) is an overuse injury affecting the knee. The patella tendon is a short but very wide tendon that runs from the patella (kneecap) to the top of the tibia. It works with the muscles at the front of the thigh to extend the knee so it can perform physical acts like kicking, running, and jumping. Due to these elements, the patellar tendon has to absorb a lot of this loading and as a result is prone to injury in runners and jumpers. Unlike many running injuries, patellar tendonitis is somewhat more common in men than in women.
The stress on the patellar tendon results in small tears, which the body attempts to repair, but as the injury multiplies, it causes pain from inflammation and weakening of the tendon. When this tendon damage persists for more than a few weeks, it is called, “tendinopathy”.
Initial symptoms of patellar tendonitis can be:
- Anterior knee pain over the patella tendon
- Pain increased from jumping, landing or running activity, and on occasion prolonged sitting
- Onset of pain can be gradual and commonly relates to an increase in sports activities
- Localised tenderness over the patella tendon
- The tendon feeling stiff, mostly first thing in the morning
- The affected tendon may appear thickened in comparison to the unaffected side
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Typically, tendon injuries occur in three areas:
- Musculotendinous junction (where the tendon joins the muscle)
- Mid-tendon (non-insertional tendinopathy)
- Tendon insertion (eg. Into the bone)
If you try to work through your pain, ignoring your body’s warning signs, you could cause increasingly larger tears in the patellar tendon.
Knee pain and reduced function can persist if the problem is not addressed , which can progress to more serious patellar tendinopathy.
Treatment of this condition has two objectives: to reduce inflammation and to allow the tendon to heal. Rest is a must when the knee is painful and swollen. Avoid stair climbing and jumping sports. Keep your knee straight while sitting, and avoid squatting.
Icing the knee for twenty minutes two to three times a day is recommended, especially after any sporting activities. Exercises can also be used to stretch and balance the thigh muscles.
It is advisable however, to contact a physical therapist & approach proper physical therapy before you attempt any of these remedies, to avoid any further damage.