Managing Patellar Tendonitis: Treatment and Recovery Strategies

Jumper’s knee, or patellar tendonitis, is a common ailment that plagues athletes and other active individuals. This condition arises from the inflammation of the patellar tendon, the tissue that connects your kneecap (patella) to your shin bone (tibia). While it may begin as a nagging discomfort, it can escalate to severe pain and even a tear in the tendon if left untreated. Understanding patellar tendonitis, its symptoms, and effective treatment strategies is paramount for anyone with this condition.

As indicated by the colloquial term “jumper’s knee,” the patellar tendon plays a pivotal role in enabling movements such as jumping, running, and walking. Overuse and repetitive stress on the knee joint, particularly from activity on hard surfaces like concrete or asphalt, are significant factors that contribute to this condition. The continual strain on the tendon leads to this inflammation, which can cause more damage if ignored.

Recognizing the Symptoms of Patellar Tendonitis

Identifying the symptoms of patellar tendonitis is critical in prompting patients to seek timely treatment. Symptoms can vary, and each person may not feel every symptom: 

  • Persistent pain and tenderness around the patellar tendon
  • Swelling in the affected area
  • Pain that worsens during activities like jumping, running, or walking
  • Pain in the kneecap when bending or straightening the leg

You should visit an orthopedic specialist if you experience any of these symptoms. In addition to tendonitis, these symptoms may arise with other knee-related problems, and you will need to get an accurate diagnosis and seek treatment to avoid injuring your knee further. 

Exploring Treatment Options

If, after an examination and any appropriate imaging tests, your doctor diagnoses your condition as patellar tendonitis, several treatment options may be available depending upon the severity of the condition. Here are some commonly recommended therapies: 

  • Self-care: The lowest level of therapy is self-care, which is effective for milder cases of tendonitis. The primary requirement in helping the tendon to heal is rest. This means avoiding all activities that stress the knee and refraining from unnecessary movement. Elevating the knee during rest periods is best to promote good circulation and discourage swelling. If there is swelling, the patient should periodically apply ice. Over-the-counter pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medicines can provide short-term pain relief. If the patient must move, wearing a brace can help to keep the knee warm and stable. This shorthand therapy is called RICE: rest, ice, compression, elevation.
  • Physical therapy: A physical therapist can recommend specific exercises to address your injury. Stretching exercises can alleviate muscle spasms and enhance flexibility. Strengthening exercises, especially for the thigh muscles, can help reduce the strain on the patellar tendon. A patellar tendon strap may also be recommended to distribute force away from the tendon.
  • Iontophoresis: This therapy reduces inflammation and involves applying a corticosteroid medicine to the skin and delivering a low electrical charge to the area to facilitate medication penetration. 
  • Invasive medical procedures: If conservative non-invasive treatments do not provide adequate relief, your doctor may recommend more aggressive therapy methods. These may include corticosteroid injections, platelet-rich plasma injections, or other minimal procedures. Surgery is rarely needed for tendonitis, although it may be necessary if the tendon tears. 

Your orthopedic provider will help you determine the most suitable treatment for your injury.

Patellar tendonitis can be painful and debilitating. However, the good news is that it can be treated and remedied, and with time and care, you can expect to return to your regular active life in a short while. Whether through self-care practices, physical therapy, or medical procedures, options are available to manage it effectively. 
If you believe you have patellar tendonitis or you have knee pain that is not responding to your care, see us at TJN Ortho in Thousand Oaks, California. Dr. T specializes in treating knee injuries, and you can get an accurate diagnosis of your condition and treatment recommendations. Contact Tchejeyan Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine today.