What is knee tendonitis?
Knee tendonitis, also known as patellar tendonitis, refers to an injury to the tendon which connects the shin bone to the patellar (knee cap). This tendon is vital to movements which require extending the knee; from running to jumping and kicking.
The condition is common for sports players who jump a lot - such as those who play volleyball or basketball. But knee tendonitis can also develop in people who do not play these sports.
Symptoms of knee tendonitis
The predominant symptom of knee tendonitis is pain which arises between the kneecap and where the tendon meets the shin bone. Pain is typically felt after beginning physical activity, or after activity has finished. The pain can become more severe over time, begin to impede sports players during the competition, and impact on activities in everyday life, such as standing up or climbing stairs. If you believe your condition is getting worse or is impacting on your physical activities, you should see a doctor.
Causes of knee tendonitis
Knee tendonitis typically stems from overuse, and repeated pressure which is placed on the patellar tendon. This stress leads to tears in the tendon which multiply over time, causing inflammation and pain, while the tendon weakens.
A number of risk factors are associated with the development of knee tendonitis, including; physical activity which involves a lot of running or jumping; muscular imbalance, when certain leg muscles are stronger than others and the patellar tendon is subject to excess stress; tight leg muscles, which can place stress on the patellar tendon; and illnesses which disrupt blood circulation to the knee, such as autoimmune diseases, kidney failure and metabolic diseases.
Treatment options for knee tendonitis
Knee tendonitis is typically diagnosed via a physical examination, during which your doctor may place pressure at different points on your knee to determine the location of the pain. Imaging tests such as x-ray, ultrasound or an MRI scan may also be ordered.
Non-invasive treatment options for knee tendonitis include medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID). Physical therapy programmes for knee tendonitis can include; stretching exercises which can help to lengthen the muscles around the knee and patellar tendon, and strengthening exercises, which can build up the leg muscles to provide better support.
There is also the option of iontophoresis, which uses low electrical charges in tandem with corticosteroid medicine, and a patellar tendon strap, which can help to distribute more evenly and ease stress on the tendon.
When the treatments outlined above have proven ineffective, the following procedures can be recommended; a corticosteroid injection, guided by ultrasound; or a platelet-rich plasma injection, to assist in the formation of new tissues.
In cases of chronic knee tendonitis, surgical procedures, largely using arthroscopic techniques, can be advised.