What Is the Best Treatment for Knee Tendonitis?

Reviewed on 2/16/2021

What is tendonitis?

Tendonitis is inflammation of the tendon. The best treatments for knee tendonitis include knee support, over-the-counter pain medications, rest, ice and other home care measures.
Tendonitis is inflammation of the tendon. The best treatments for knee tendonitis include knee support, over-the-counter pain medications, rest, ice and other home care measures.

Tendonitis, or tendinitis, is the inflammation of a tendon. A tendon is a thick cord made up of tiny fibers that connect muscles to bones. The knee (patellar) tendon is a tough, flexible tissue that attaches the kneecap to the shinbone. The tendon helps the muscles in the front of your thigh to straighten your leg

When you have an inflamed or irritated tendon, you may feel pain, tenderness, and mild swelling near the affected joint. You can get knee tendonitis if you overuse your knee joint. Knee tendonitis is also known as patellar tendonitis or jumper’s knee. The best treatment is to stop any activity that is causing the problem until the injury is healed.

What is knee tendonitis?

Knee tendonitis or jumper's knee, a common, often sports-related injury characterized by inflammation of your patellar tendon. This tendon connects your kneecap (patella) to your shinbone (tibia). Knee tendonitis is caused by a repeated strain that leads to micro-tears in your tendon. These micro-tears cause inflammation and pain, weaken your tendon, and, if left untreated, can lead to larger tears in your tendon.

Main symptoms

Symptoms of knee tendonitis include:

  • Pain above or below the kneecap
  • Tenderness behind the lower part of your kneecap
  • Pain that occurs with specific activities and stops with rest
  • Swelling, may be accompanied by heat or redness 
  • Chronic pain in severe cases, in spite of resting the joint 
  • Crackling or grating sensation when moving the tendon

Some symptoms of knee tendonitis are similar to those of more severe conditions like osteoarthritis, tendon tears, and fractures. You should see a doctor if your symptoms don’t go away after a few days.

Main causes

Tendonitis is often a repetitive strain injury, which means you get it by repeating the same motion over and over, irritating the tendon. Some of the joints most affected by tendonitis include the elbow, heel, and wrist

One risk factor is age: over time, tendons lose their flexibility and the involved muscles lose strength, both of which stress the tendons. Other possible risk factors include:

  • Being overweight
  • Tight leg muscles
  • Uneven muscle strength
  • Improperly padded shoes
  • Feet, ankles, and legs that are misaligned

Who can get it

Knee tendonitis is usually a sports-related injury linked to leg muscle contraction and the force of hitting the ground, so it is common among people who engage in sports. If you play high-impact sports such as volleyball, basketball, or tennis, you may be at a higher risk of developing patellar tendonitis. Running, squatting, and jumping are some of the exercises that put excessive stress on the tendons in the knee.

Diagnosis for knee tendonitis

Knee tendonitis is diagnosed in a medical exam with your orthopedic or sports medicine doctor. Your doctor will take a full medical history to understand your normal activity level, the kind of sports you play, and your symptoms and when they occur. They will then go over some remedies that reduce the pain.

Your doctor will examine your knee, putting pressure on it to see where it hurts, and testing to see how well it moves. The doctor may also order an x-ray, MRI, or ultrasound to determine if there is severe damage to the bones or tendons.

Treatments for knee tendonitis  

Treatment for tendonitis will depend on the severity of the injury. The following are possible treatments for tendonitis: 

Medications

You can take over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen or naproxen to reduce inflammation and relieve pain caused by knee tendonitis. You can also use over-the-counter pain relievers like aspirin. Minimally invasive pain-relief treatments include corticosteroid injections and platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections.

Home care

Here are some simple steps you can take to take care of tendonitis pain. At the first sign of pain:

  • Avoid activities that put stress on your knees or cause pain
  • Apply ice
  • Use a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory like ibuprofen or naproxen or an over-the-counter pain reliever like aspirin 
  • Use knee support

Once the pain and any swelling are gone, try easing back into your normal activities and hold off on more demanding athletic activities for a few weeks. Typically, tendonitis goes away in a few weeks or months. Your doctor may recommend extra treatments for particularly stubborn cases.

Alternative therapies

There are several alternative therapies available to treat knee tendonitis: 

  • Physical therapy: the role of physical therapy or rehabilitation is to strengthen the leg and knee muscles and reduce the pain.
  • Brace: during physical therapy, your doctor may prescribe a brace or crutches to help support your knee while it is healing.
  • PRP injections: Your doctor injects a concentration of your own platelets into the affected area of the knee to promote healing.

Surgery

Surgery is only required to treat knee tendonitis when other less invasive treatments are not effective. Your doctor will determine if you require traditional open knee surgery or another procedure called minimally invasive arthroscopic surgery, which requires less recovery time.

Complications, side effects of treatments

Recovery from knee tendonitis depends on the severity of your case. The longer you continue your normal routine before treatment, the longer your recovery will take. It is also important to follow your doctor’s advice and physical therapist’s instructions completely in order to get back to your routine as fast as possible.

If left untreated for a prolonged period, a tendon may rupture which would require surgery. 


 

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References
SOURCES:

Cochrane: "Surgery for patella tendinopathy (jumper's knee)." Harvard Health Publishing: "Taming tendinitis in the knee."

EMORY Healthcare: "Patellar Tendonitis."

Intermountain Healthcare: "Patellar Tendonitis."

International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy: "CURRENT CONCEPTS IN THE TREATMENT OF PATELLAR TENDINOPATHY."

International Orthopaedics: "Use of platelet-rich plasma for the treatment of refractory jumper’s knee."

Mercy Health: "Tendonitis in the Knee."

North American Journal of Sports Physical Therapy: "EVIDENCE-SUPPORTED REHABILITATION OF PATELLAR TENDINOPATHY."

Scandinavian Journal of Medical & Science in Sports: "Post-operative use of knee brace in bone-tendon-bone patellar tendon anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction: 5-year follow-up results of a randomized prospective study."

The Bone & Joint Center: "Treatment for Knee Tendonitis."

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