How Do You Know If Knee Pain Is Tendonitis

Knee pain is a common complaint among patients seeking professional advice and medical care at Tchejeyan Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine in Thousand Oaks, California. The knee is a complex joint, and different parts of the knee can get injured. One possible cause of knee pain is patellar tendonitis. Patellar tendonitis is inflammation of the tendon that connects the patella (kneecap) to the tibia (shinbone). But how do you know if your knee pain is caused by patellar tendonitis?

Causes and Symptoms of Patellar Tendonitis

Unlike some other knee injuries, tendonitis of the patella isn’t usually the result of a single, catastrophic injury to the knee that needs immediate care. Instead, it’s an overuse injury caused by repetitive movements that stress the knee joint over time. When a joint like the knee is repeatedly used in the same movement pattern under significant stress or weight loads, it causes inflammation of the tendon and the development of tiny tears in the tendon itself.

Often referred to as “jumper’s knee,” this painful condition is common in athletes who participate in sports involving explosive movements or repetitive motion, such as basketball, volleyball, soccer, or running. But people whose work requires repetitive movements like bending, kneeling, lifting, or climbing stairs are also candidates for this kind of knee injury.

The most common symptom of this kind of tendonitis is pain below the kneecap. Some people may also experience stiffness in their knees, swelling around the patella, and difficulty fully extending their legs. The pain usually starts gradually and may initially occur in athletes after a strenuous practice or game. Non-athletes may notice their first twinge of pain at the end of a busy workday.

As inflammation of the tendon progresses over time, the pain becomes more intense and can eventually become constant, even when you are at rest. Stiffness and loss of mobility may also increase. If left untreated, patellar tendonitis can lead to a sudden and more severe tear in the tendon itself.

Diagnosis & Treatment

If you are experiencing chronic pain in your knee that may be a result of patellar tendonitis, it is essential to receive an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan from a qualified, experienced orthopedist before your injury progresses and becomes more severe. An exam will include an in-depth inquiry that will take note of all your symptoms, your medical history, the onset of your knee problems, and a complete physical exam to check for pain and tenderness around the kneecap. In cases that involve severe or long-standing pain, your doctor may order an MRI to confirm the diagnosis and determine the extent of the damage and whether there may be additional damage or injuries.


Most cases of patellar tendonitis respond well to non-surgical treatments like the RICE protocol:

  • Resting the joint by avoiding the activity that causes the condition.
  • Icing the tendon several times a day for 15 minutes at a time.
  • Using compression wraps and elevation to stabilize the knee and reduce swelling.

Time, care, and rest are often enough to resolve tendonitis when undertaken diligently and early. The time it takes will depend on how severe your tendonitis is and how long you have neglected your injury. More extensive treatment may be required if you wait too long to address the damage. In the most extreme cases, surgery may be warranted.   

Patellar tendonitis is a fairly common cause of knee pain, especially in athletes and those whose jobs require repetitive movements like bending, kneeling, or lifting. If you think you may have patellar tendonitis, it is essential to visit an orthopedic specialist for accurate diagnosis and treatment. Make an appointment with Tchejeyan Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine today!