Knee tendinitis is a very common cause of chronic knee pain in which one or more knee tendons become swollen and inflamed. Most cases of knee tendinitis result from repetitive overuse and excessive stress on the joint. It is especially prevalent in athletes who participate in sports that require frequent sprints, jumps, and stops, such as basketball and soccer. A person who experiences knee weakness, tenderness, and a loss of flexibility can usually treat the condition at home with rest and ice. Severe or persistent knee tendinitis should be evaluated and treated by a doctor to avoid permanent joint damage.
There are four main tendons that connect bones to muscles around the knee joint: the patellar, quadriceps, hamstring, and iliotibial tendons. The most likely site of knee tendinitis is the patellar tendon, which connects the kneecap to the tibia and surrounding muscle tissue. The tendon becomes irritated and inflamed when repeated stress is placed on the knee. The most significant risk factors for the condition are overuse during sports or exercise, obesity, and older age.
The first sign of knee tendinitis is usually localized pain that worsens during and after activity. The area just below or behind the knee joint may become tender to the touch, and swelling and redness can occur. Tendinitis often causes the knee joint to feel stiff and a person's range of motion may be limited. The injury can become severe enough that it is very uncomfortable or impossible to bear weight on the leg.
Most cases of knee tendinitis can be relieved by resting the leg for several days. Taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs and applying an ice pack to the knee every few hours helps to lessen swelling and pain while the affected tendon heals. After symptoms subside, an individual can engage in light exercise to regain strength and flexibility in the knee. Doctors often recommend wearing a knee brace when walking or playing sports to help stabilize the joint and prevent tendinitis from recurring.
An individual who experiences severe knee pain or symptoms of tendinitis that persist for several weeks should visit his or her primary care physician. The doctor can conduct a thorough physical exam and take an x-ray of the knee to determine the extent of tendon damage. After evaluating the knee, the doctor usually prescribes anti-inflammatory medications, advises the patient to rest, and arranges for physical therapy sessions. A severely strained or torn ligament may require surgery to fully correct the problem. With the proper treatment, a person who experiences knee tendinitis can usually return to his or her normal level of activity within six months.