Patellar Tendonitis: The Truth About How To Avoid And Heal Runner's Knee

 By: Anne K West, Ph.D.
Are You On the Fast Track to Patellar Tendonitis?
The Facts About Jumper's Knee


Patellar tendonitis is a condition that is identified by pain that irritates the tendons that connect the patella (or kneecap) to the tibia (known as the shinbone.) The patellar tendon's main job is to work together with the quadriceps muscle and the quadriceps tendon, to help your knee to bend, and these important tendons generate the power necessary to perform this critical motion.

A healthy patellar tendon is crucial for all ranges of physically active people, particularly athletes, because this tendon is used when a person is jumping, running, kicking a ball, or pedaling a bicycle. The patellar tendon, like other tendons, is made of hard fiber like chords. These chords are encircled by a lining of complex vessels which funnel nutrition to the tendon. When nutrition is not reaching the tendon, inflammation and pain result.

What Triggers Patellar Tendonitis?

As is the case with all tendonitis, patellar tendonitis manifests itself because of overuse, or repeated stress. When the patellar tendon is overloaded, particularly during physical training, the tendons experience stress trying to keep up. This tension results in small rips in the tendon, which encourages the body's natural response to heal itself, by sending more nutrients via the blood supply channels.

As is often the case, the tendon can't compete with the repetitive stress activity, so inflammation and tenderness develop. Patellar tendonitis is an extremely agonizing form of tendonitis. Many affected individuals report that the pain will increase until it becomes a constant, dull pain that is ever present.

It gets bad enough to keep the sufferer from sleeping. Patellar tendonitis, more often than not, occurs in athletes who have to jump frequently in sports like basketball, soccer, and volleyball. Due to the association with pain felt in the knee while jumping, this condition is often called the jumper's knee. The same is true for it's twin, "runner's knee."

There are many ways to injure the patellar tendon. The most unmistakable ways being to fall hard on the front part of the knee, or for an object to strike it. This unexpected trauma will agitate and inflame the tendon temporarily, but it does not often produce the micro-tears and severity of inflammation found in long-term injury.

Unforeseen acute stress, however, is not as widespread a cause as repetitive stress related patellar tendonitis. In some ways, sudden trauma is an simpler cause of patellar tendonitis to recover from, because it does not include tearing, which produces scar tissue. Scar tissue will make the affected area more stiff and rigid, decrease flexibility, and result in a more lengthy healing process. It is not unusual for "normal" healing periods to last upwards of six months.

Another challenging way tendonitis of the patellar can strike, is to loom in cold weather climates. The probability of patellar strain are increased significantly when an athlete is training excessively in wintry weather. Overuse in frigid temperatures assaults the tendons when they are cold, stiff, and brittle. This makes the tendons vulnerable to small tearing and distress. A cold weather preventative patellar tendonitis solution would be to layer warm clothing correctly while exercising in cold temperatures. It is recommended to wear clothing that is moisture wicking, and dries easily. Wear climate appropriate clothing when training.

Perhaps the most experienced cause of patellar tendon injury is very comparable to a train jumping it's tracks. It's known as "mis-tracking" of the tendon, as named because the tendon jumps out of the canal at the upper part of the shinbone, and over the knee cartilage. This happens primarily during heavy exertion, and is said to be quite painful. Also, if you have ever gone through fallen arches, or have had painful arch issues, you may want to investigate shoe inserts. Suitable support in your footwear prevents the arches from collapsing, and consequently, keeps the shinbone from rotating and causing the track jumping pain described above.

How Do You Treat Patellar Tendonitis?

1. Rest is by far the best way to cure patellar tendonitis. There are consistent remedies and measures to take if you believe you have developed tendonitis of the patellar. Most importantly, discontinue the activity which caused the injury in the first place! All mobility doesn't have to be stopped, but running (especially downhill) or jumping should be entirely eliminated.

2. Apply ice to the strained and swollen area. Ice packs directly after the activity, applied a couple of times a day for not less than twenty minutes, will noticeably aid in the decrease of swelling. Once the irritation is stabilized, the tendon is able to deliver vital nutrients to the damaged area where before it was unable to. Healing will be more rapid once the vascular tissue is no longer blocked.

3. Consider over the counter, anti inflammatory medications to lessen pain and reduce swelling. Of course, be cautious not to hide your pain with prescriptions, which can proceed to re-injury. However, for individuals electing non-prescription pain medications, the healing process may be faster and less difficult.

4. Massage the location with the aid of a professional, or on your own,all along the leg area to encourage blood flow. Blood flowing to the affected area carries essential oxygen and nutrients, which speeds healing.

More Healing Tips for Persistent Tendonitis

5. Investigate using a brace, or a special knee strap, called the Chopat strap. These have been noted to assist tendonitis sufferers, if used properly, to lessen pressure on the strained patellar tendon.

6. Pay attention to stretching and warming up. Lastly,as it is strongly advised with all tendonitis treatments, ifyou incorporate stretching before exercise or repetitive activity,your muscles will appreciate it immensely! Post exercise stretches are great injury insurance as well.

Don't forget, a body that is introduced to a frequent stretching routine, combined with exercise, will become a flexible and strong body capable of avoiding injury!
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