Tendonitis of the Knee

By Jay Herrera, DPT
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Young sport man with strong athletic legs holding knee with his hands in pain after suffering ligament injury  isolated on white.

Tendonitis of the Knee, What It Is?

Tendonitis of the Knee is when you have an irritated tendon in the front part of your knee usually below the knee cap but is can also be a generalized diffuse tendon irritation from the lower quadriceps to the insertion at the top of the tibia (shin bone).

What Can Cause It?

Knee tendonitis can be cause from a variety of factors. Essentially what you have is an irritation of the tendon itself, the sheath of the tendon or both. This irritation can be caused by a sudden onset trauma. It is usually caused by a worsening underlying chronic process of repetitive straining of the tendon unit causing micro tearing of the tendon structure. This stimulates the inflammatory process to heal the tendon. Activities that can cause this tendon injury process can be excessive running, jumping, falling onto your knees, chronic muscle imbalance causing excessive, aging, underlying disease processes to name a few.

What Can You Do On Your Own?

Controlling the inflammation of the tendon is ideal. This can be done by:

  1. Apply ice to the knee for 10-15 minutes.
  2. Cross Friction massage to the painful tendon. Using your finger tips, apply ~ 1 pound of pressure to tendon and rub back and forth for about 1 minute at a time. Repeat 3-4 times.
  3. Gentle Stretching of the tendon/muscle associated to that tendon.
  4. Rest. Reducing the load and friction of the tendon can help to promote adequate healing.

What Are Professional Treatment Options?

  1. Cold laser therapy aka low level laser to the affected tendon
  2. Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization using instrument like thin stainless steel edges where the tendon is scraped to promote healing process of the tissue. This is typically done by a licensed healthcare provider.
  3. Anti-inflammatory topical agents
  4. Ultrasound to the affected tendon
  5. Corrective therapeutic exercise to correct muscle imbalances that may be contributing to excessive tendon irritation.

What Should You Expect?

Depending on the severity of the tendon condition, it can be a 3-4 week process to have the tendon heal 100% and will take daily attention to help secure adequate healing. The symptoms may go up and down while you are healing and managing the disease process. The healing process may include periods of worsening pain but continue to be diligent and consistent with daily management of the healing components.