Knee tendonitis, also known as patellar tendinitis, can limit your ability to get around on a daily basis or participate in athletics. Often known as jumper's knee, patellar tendinitis is an injury to the tendon that attaches your kneecap to your tibia. Knowing the signs and symptoms can help you be able to determine when you need to visit your physician. If the pain is ignored, you could risk a torn tendon as well as weakened leg muscles.
Patellar tendinitis can be considered an overuse injury. With the repeated stress placed on the tendon tearing can occur. While your body is attempting to repair the tears more are occurring and your body simply can't keep up. Repeated jumping, being overweight and muscular imbalance can also contribute to patellar tendinitis. You can also place stress on the tendon by suddenly increasing the intensity of your physical activity
Signs and Symptoms
The most common sign of patellar tendinitis is pain. Usually the pain occurs right below the kneecap and right above where the tendon attaches to your tibia. You may experience the pain before, during or after your workout or other physical activity. You may also notice that the pain increases as the intensity level increases and it may become a constant dull ache over time. The pain can make going up and down stairs painful due to the stress this places on the tendon. You may also experience stiffness and swelling.
If, after attempting to alleviate the pain with at home treatments such as icing, elevating the knee or pain relievers, you are still experiencing pain, you should seek the advice of your doctor. Your doctor will perform a physical exam to determine the location and intensity of the pain. Most patellar tendinitis pain is located and related to the area below the kneecap. They may also request an MRI so they can get a detailed image of your tendon. This should reveal any tears that have occurred.
Knee pain can be caused by a host of conditions. Other conditions that may cause the same signs of patellar tendinitis are meniscal tears, patellofemoral pain syndrome and cartilage breakdown. Meniscal tears occur in the meniscus which cushions your knee joint and acts as a shock absorber. Pain directly behind your kneecap is commonly associated with patellofemoral pain syndrome and can be confused with patellar tendinitis until ruled out with an MRI.
Treatment can consist of a home based therapy of rest, ice and massage. It can also include working with a physical therapist to strengthen the muscles around the tendon and help with flexibility in the leg. Along with over the counter pain relievers, these measures usually result in a full recovery. Recovery can take several weeks or several months depending on the severity of the damage. If after 6 months you haven't recovered and are still experiencing pain and interference with daily activities you need to talk to your doctor about surgery. With surgery, only 75% of people experience pain relief, so it's something that should be considered carefully.