Patellar tendonitis (often called “Jumper’s Knee” because it is a common overuse condition in athletes) is a source of pain and discomfort to many. To understand what it is, you have to understand a bit about the anatomy of the knee. What we call the kneecap is a ridge of bone called the patella. Stretching over and around it are a series of fibrous ligaments called the patellar tendon. It connects the quadriceps muscle to the patella, and the patella to the tibia or shin bone. The patellar tendon stretches and contracts with almost every movement of the knee, especially when you straighten out, lift, or flex your leg. Walking, running, biking, climbing, skiing, and “explosive” muscular movements of the leg such as jumping put stress on the patellar tendon, which can produce tiny tears in its tissue, causing inflammation (tendonitis), especially when overdone. If scar tissue builds up around these tears, it is less flexible than the normal tissue of the tendon, and more likely to become torn or injured again. Thus, the condition can become chronic.
Patellar tendonitis is experienced as pain, tenderness, soreness and possible swelling in the knee area. The pain is most commonly felt directly over or just below the kneecap, where it attaches to the shin bone. A sharp pain may be felt when jumping or landing, and sideways motions of the knee can sometimes cause a sharp, stabbing pain. Patellar tendonitis is most often caused by overuse, especially during exercise or athletics. It can be aggravated by being overweight, and is more common in individuals who use their legs a lot, either in their work or in sports activities.
If you have this condition, or suspect that you do, see your doctor or chiropractor. Left untreated, it can become much more serious, even debilitating. Most medical professionals treat patellar tendonitis conservatively at first, prescribing rest (especially taking a break from the sports activities that seem to have caused it), using ice packs to decrease swelling, and anti-inflammatory medications. In extreme cases, medical doctors may prescribe more invasive therapies such as injections of corticosteroids or platelet-rich plasma, or even surgery.
But before you go that route, you may want to visit your chiropractor, because there are alternatives that have been successful in treating patellar tendonitis in many patients, without the need for drugs or invasive therapies. For example, because every movement of the knee is affected by movements of the ankle and hip joints, the chiropractor will look at your overall skeletal structure, to see if there are either misalignments or muscle tightness/weaknesses that may be causing or aggravating the pressure on your patellar tendon. These structural misalignments can be addressed with chiropractic adjustments, and the muscle conditions treated with ultrasound. Because this condition can often be caused by muscle imbalance – in which one set of paired muscles becomes stronger than the other – the chiropractor may test for that condition and prescribe therapies to correct it, such as soft tissue massage or the Active Release Technique®. Exercises may also be prescribed to strengthen the muscles surrounding the knee, and to restore their normal range of motion.