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What is Patellar Tendinitis?

By Jacob Queen
Updated May 17, 2024
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Patellar tendinitis is a condition affecting the tendon that helps the kneecap extend. This is a very common injury among certain athletes, and because of this, the condition is also called jumper's knee. The condition is caused by overuse, and its most common symptom is pain and discomfort.

Pain from patellar tendinitis is generally located in an area between the kneecap and the shin. During periods of heavy activity, the pain can be piercing and sharp. When a person is at rest, he may feel a dull throbbing ache. Sometimes there is also swelling, and in milder cases, the pain will only be present during activity. Over time, the pain may become progressively worse and eventually be somewhat debilitating.

Constant stress on the tendon is the primary cause of patellar tendinitis. When a person performs a physically difficult exercise, small tears occur in the muscles and tendons. With adequate rest, these will heal themselves, and the person may gradually become stronger. Without rest, the area will eventually become inflamed, and tendinitis may develop. This is the same process that causes other forms of tendinitis, but in this case, it is happening in the patellar tendon.

In trying to diagnose patellar tendinitis, the doctor may press on a person's knee in different areas to see if there is any additional pain. If there is extra pain caused by pressing just below the kneecap on the shin, that would be a strong indicator of the condition. The doctor may also choose to perform X-rays and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) tests in order to rule out other possible causes. Another part of diagnosing patellar tendinitis is simply asking questions. The doctor may want to know what sort of activities a person performs on a daily basis to see if he has risk factors for patellar tendinitis.

Treatment for patellar tendinitis usually starts with resting the injured area. A person may be asked to avoid the activity that originally caused the problem until the pain lessens. Physical therapy may be required to show an individual different ways of moving that don't put as much stress on the patellar tendon. There are also stretching and strengthening exercises that will eventually increase the durability in the area of the injury and reduce the chance of future problems. In very severe cases that don't respond to normal therapy, surgery may be used to repair damage to the tendon, but this is relatively uncommon.

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