3 Forms of Exercises to Help with Painful Patellar Tendonitis
Often referred to as “jumper’s knee”, patellar tendonitis is a painful condition involving a damaged tendon connecting the patella (knee cap) to the shin bone. Like other tendons, the patella tendon consists of strong bands which are girdled by vascular tissue lining and delivers necessary nutrition to the tendon.
Patellar tendonitis occurs when the tendon becomes irritated and inflamed. Some athletes are susceptible to this condition when they perform repetitive jumping motions, hence the term “jumper’s knee”. For example, basketball players run the risk of this condition, as do volleyball players. However, it’s also been known to plague runners and other athletes as well.
Unlike some other injuries, patellar tendonitis is a chronic condition, which means it’s persistent. In contrast to an instant injury such as a sprain, patellar tendonitis often becomes irritated and inflamed over time with a gradual development due to overuse, leading to tiny tears and a thickening of the patellar tendon.
But, how do you know if you have it?
Symptoms of Patellar Tendonitis
Before deciding what exercises are right for you, or continuing on with your normal routine, you should first find out if patellar tendonitis is the reason for all your discomfort. The symptoms include intense pain within the knee cap…or over the patellar tendon in particular. The tendon will probably be swollen and tender. You might also feel a crunching or crackling sensation when you move the knee. This is referred to as crepitus.
Another symptom that is common is pain with kneeling, jumping, or many other activities involving movement with the knee.
If you are diagnosed with it, your doctor might also order additional tests including x-rays and an MRI. These could show the reason for the condition, such as a calcium deposit that could be irritating the tendon. And, once you are diagnosed, you will most likely be asked to rest your knee, as well as ice it for a while and take some anti-inflammatories.
Then, you might go through some physical therapy to help improve the condition. There are certain types of exercising known to help…
1. Knee Stabilization
Once your pain is significantly reduced through rest, ice, and anti-inflammatories, your physical therapist might have you perform a knee stabilization exercise. This will help out with strengthening the muscle and tendon through the rehabilitation process.
One way to do this is by wrapping an elastic tubing or band around your opposite ankle from the injured knee. Next, tie a knot at the opposite end of the band or tubing and anchor it by closing it in a door. While you face the door, slightly bend your injured knee, keeping your leg muscles taut. Raise the wrapped leg up and out, directly behind you, and repeat this movement 10 times for 3 sets.
If you need a bigger challenge, try standing on a pillow for this exercise, which will make you work harder to balance.
2. Stretching Exercises
Stretching exercises will help with flexibility and loosening tight muscles, which can easily lead to injury…or, even prevention in healing a current injury. Tight hamstrings and quadriceps in particular contribute to problems with patellar tendonitis. So, make sure that you keep them as flexible as possible.
An example of a stretching exercise for patellar tendonitis is a standing hamstring stretch. One way to do a hamstring stretch would be to place your heel (same leg that is injured) on a base, such as a stool that is about 15 inches in height. Without bending at the waist, lean your body forward until you can feel a decent stretch in the backside of your thigh. Hold yourself in this stretch for approximately 30 seconds, and then repeat this stretch 3 times.
For your quads, stand at arm’s length distance from a wall, but not facing the wall, with your injured knee on the outside. Place a hand on the wall for support and grab the ankle of the injured knee, and gently pull upward (toward your buttocks). Make sure to keep your entire back straight. Hold onto this stretch for about 30 seconds.
3. Eccentric Exercising
Eccentric exercises are utilized by many physical therapists when it comes to strengthening the tendons and muscles for patellar tendonitis patients. Eccentric exercising is when you use lengthening movements, rather than contracting or shortening movements. In other words, the curling of an arm is concentric, while straightening it is eccentric. So, focusing on just the straightening component would be an eccentric exercise.
Specifically for the knee, an example of eccentric exercise would be when you bend at the knee smoothly into a squatting position, and standing again with the same smooth movement, rather than holding it. If you need more challenge, especially when the pain is diminished, using weights will help create resistance.
If you have been diagnosed with patellar tendonitis, it will require some patience and work on your part to find long term relief. Consult with your physician and physical therapist to know which exercise routine would be best for your individual needs.