What is patellar tendinopathy?
Patellar tendinopathy — also known as patellar tendinosis or jumper’s knee — is a disorder of the patellar tendon. The patellar tendon is a flexible band of tissue that connects your kneecap to your shin bone and helps you straighten your leg. It plays an important role in activities like jumping, running, and climbing stairs.
Patellar tendinopathy symptoms
The most common symptom of jumper’s knee is pain just below the kneecap. At first, you may only feel the pain in the early part of your workout or activity. Later, the pain may get worse or last longer. Eventually, pain may prevent you from using your knee as you normally would.
Other symptoms include:
- Stiffness in the knee
- Swelling just below the knee
Patellar tendinopathy causes and risk factors
The cause of patellar tendinopathy is unknown. Although jumping, kicking, and other repetitive, forceful movements of the knees are associated with the condition, jumper’s knee can also affect less-active people.
Evaluation for patellar tendinopathy
Most cases of jumper’s knee can be identified by your sports medicine physician, who will ask questions about your pain and do a physical examination. An ultrasound may also be used so that your doctor can see the structure of the tendon and how severe the condition is.
Patellar tendinopathy treatment options
Treatment of jumper’s knee begins with rest or adapting your routine to avoid putting stress on the knee. Your care team will help you to identify and correct any errors in the way you train or the way you use equipment so that your symptoms do not recur.
Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen may reduce pain, but they do not help to heal the tendon if symptoms have been present for several weeks. Those medications are typically not recommended for chronic patellar tendinopathy treatment. Ice and compression are better options for managing the pain.
If simple rest and changes in your activity do not reduce your pain, the next steps include:
- Evaluation by a physical therapist, who may suggest exercises to strengthen your lower body and improve your movement.
- Wearing a patellar tendon strap around the knee, which can reduce strain. Wearing a strap is a temporary measure. It is not a substitute for physical therapy or adapting your training routine.
If the treatments above do not improve your condition, your sports medicine physician may recommend other options, such as:
- Percutaneous tendon scraping — a simple office procedure that improves pain and the tendon’s ability to heal
- Percutaneous ultrasonic tendon debridement (also called Tenex Health TX) — a simple surgical procedure that uses ultrasound to break down and remove damaged tendon tissue
- Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injection — platelets collected from your own blood are injected into the damaged area, enhancing your body’s natural healing process
- Surgical debridement — open or arthroscopic (closed) surgery in which damaged tissue is removed from the tendon