Tendonitis is a term used for inflammation of a tendon. Patellar tendonitis, or jumpers knee, is inflammation of the tendon across the knee joint. Usually this happens when the knee is used in repetitive high impact movement that it is not used to yet. This leads to irritation of the tendon, which you may feel as pain, redness and/or swelling.
This condition can get worse if the pain is ignored, starting a cycle of constant re-irritation of the tendon. Over time this can lead to the tendon breakdown, and even tearing.
Now there are multiple tendons that cross the knee joint, but the most common tendon irritated is the patellar tendon. This tendon attaches in between your kneecap and your shinbone or tibia, and is the main lever for your quadriceps. The patellar tendon gets stressed the most in high impact activities, especially activities that involve excessive jumping. This is why patellar tendonitis usually goes by “jumper's knee”.
With jumping the quadriceps contracts hard to keep the knee steady during take off and landing. If the tendon is not accustomed to this load increase, it leads to irritation and pain.
Is there anything I can do at home for knee tendonitis?
So what can we do to alleviate patellar tendon pain? Well there are a couple things:
- Ride a bike with little to no resistance- gentle knee motion helps promote tendon healing
- Buy a patellar tendon unloader strap - compresses the tendon and can relieve symptoms
- Eccentric exercise - lengthening under tension has been shown to strengthen tendons
- Invest in a muscle roller - to improve tissue flexibility
- After symptoms reduce: Jump training - utilize your hips and keep your knees behind your toes on landing
Will strength training improve knee tendonitis or make it worse?
Certain resistive exercises have been shown to improve the quality of the patellar tendon and decrease pain. These have been called Heavy Slow Resistance training, or HSR
- Use a hack squat, leg press, or squat rack
- Start with very low weight, high reps with only mild to moderate soreness
- Perform three times a week
- Each day slowly decrease the reps and increase the weight
This promotes slow loading of the tendon to “train it” for high loads of pull. Consult your local Physical Therapist for more details!