Patellar tendonitis is an injury to the tendon that connects your kneecap (kneecap) to your shinbone. The patellar tendon works with the muscles in the front of your thigh to straighten your knee so you can kick, run, and jump.
Patellar tendonitis, also known as the jumper’s knee, is more common in athletes whose sports involve jumping frequently – like basketball and volleyball. But people who do not participate in show jumping can also develop patellar tendinitis.
For most people, treatment for patellar tendonitis begins with physical therapy to stretch and strengthen the muscles around the knee.
Illustration of the knee with patella and patellar tendon
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Pain is the first symptom of patellar tendonitis, usually between your kneecap and where the tendon attaches to your shin (shin).
Initially, knee pain only occurs when you start physical activity or immediately after an intense exercise. Over time, the pain worsens and begins to interfere with your exercise. After all, the pain interferes with everyday movements such as climbing stairs or getting up from a chair.
Patellar tendonitis is a common overuse injury caused by repeated stress on your patellar tendon. Stress creates tiny tears in the tendon that your body tries to repair.
As the tendon tears multiply, they cause pain due to inflammation and weakening of the tendon. If this tendon injury lasts for more than a few weeks, it is called tendinopathy.
A combination of factors can contribute to the development of patellar tendinitis, including:
- Physical activity. Running and jumping are most commonly associated with patellar tendinitis. The sudden increase in the intensity or frequency of the activity also increases tendon strain, as does changing your running shoes.
- Tight muscles of the legs. Tight hamstrings (quadriceps) and hamstrings that stretch across the back of your thighs can add stress to your patellar tendon.
- Muscle imbalance. If some muscles in your legs are much stronger than others, the stronger muscles may be pulling your patellar tendon harder. This uneven traction can lead to tendonitis.
Trying to overcome your pain by ignoring your body’s warning signs can cause larger and larger tears in the patellar tendon. Knee pain and decreased function can persist if you don’t address the problem, and you can progress to more serious patellar endinopathy.
To reduce the risk of patellar tendonitis, do the following:
- Don’t gamble through the pain. As soon as you notice exercise-related knee pain, freeze the area and rest. Avoid activities that put strain on your patellar tendon until your knee is pain free.
- Strengthen your muscles. Strong hamstrings are better able to handle the stresses that can cause patellar tendinitis. Eccentric exercises, in which the leg is lowered very slowly after the knee has been extended, are particularly helpful.