Knee Tendonitis Exercises – Everything You Should Know
You’ve probably experienced a knee problem at least once in your life. Although most knee problems are connected with physical activity, it doesn’t mean that they can’t happen to regular people during everyday activities.
Knees are one of the most stressed areas on our body. During any type of weight bearing, there is a certain amount of stress put on knees and their structures. Some physical activities, along with contributing factors, will lead to acute injuries, while others will result in chronic condition that develops over time.
Knee tendonitis, also known as patellar tendonitis or jumper’s knee, is one of the most common condition that affects the knee. In medicine, tendonitis actually means inflammation of the tendon. However, because it is a chronic progressive condition where inflammation is the least responsible for it, patellar tendinopathy is a more appropriate term.
Although knee tendonitis can happen to anyone, it is most common in people who do sports that involve frequent jumping and landing. The patellar tendon works with quadriceps muscle to straighten the knee, allowing you to jump, run, kick etc. Moreover, it also has an important role in landing.
Out of all of the activities, jumping and landing have the greatest stress on the tendon. That is the reason why knee tendonitis is also known as jumper’s knee.
What are the causes of knee tendonitis?
Knee tendonitis is primarily an overuse injury, caused by the repetitive stress on the knee and the patellar tendon. Sudden increase in intensity or frequency of the activity or doing too much too soon are also important for the development of this condition.
Even though knee tendonitis is an overuse injury, there are various factors that contribute to development of this condition such as:
- Tight quadriceps or/and hamstring muscles
Quadriceps muscle is important for straightening the knee, while hamstrings are important for knee bending. When these muscles are tight, they increase the strain across the knee and thus the patellar tendon.
- Uneven leg muscles strength
Uneven or weak lover leg muscles cause instability of the knee and more strain on it. This way the knee and its structures are more prone to injuries like knee tendonitis.
- Irregular footwear
Shoe without a proper padding or cushioning cause less shock absorption and bigger strain on the knee and tendons, raising the risk for this medical condition.
- Feet, ankle and leg structural abnormalities
Feet structural abnormalities like flat feet or high arched feet can cause more strain on the knee and patellar tendon and have a significant contribution to development of knee tendonitis.
- Hard training surface
- Acute knee injuries like sprains, tears, dislocations etc.
What are the symptoms of knee tendonitis?
Knee tendonitis is characterized by pain which is usually located under the kneecap. Initially, the pain is present only after physical activity. Overtime, as the condition progresses, it can also be present during and after the workout. In severe cases, pain is present even without activity and limits normal function and daily activities such as climbing on stairs, sitting etc.
In some cases, other signs of inflammation can also be present like tenderness, redness and swelling above the affected area. The affected knee and tendon can also look bigger in comparison to the unaffected knee.
Treatments for knee tendonitis
Treatment of knee tendonitis depends on the severity of the injury. There are two types of treatment – conservative and surgical treatment. Surgical treatment is only considered in worst case scenarios when all of previous methods didn’t work out or if the tendon has ruptured.
As with all sports injuries, the initial treatment should be simple home methods like rest, ice, compression and elevation, along with anti-inflammatory medications. This therapy is aimed at reducing the stress on the tendon and allowing the irritated tendon to settle and heal.
Rest is a crucial part of the healing process. You should avoid any physical activities that can aggravate the injury until the pain has gone. When resting, keep the leg elevated. That way you
are going to improve the circulation in the affected area and improve healing. Wearing a compression bandage can reduce the inflammation if it’s present.
There are other methods that can also help with this medical condition like:
- Proper fitting shoes
Shoes with proper padding and cushioning will ease the stress on the tendons and prevent further aggravation of knee tendonitis. If you’re not sure what kind of running shoes you should
buy, I’ve made a list of best running shoes for knee pain.
Those who have feet deformity should also get shoes that are suitable for their condition.
- Knee supports
Knee supports like sleeves, braces and jumper’s knee straps are very helpful for knee tendonitis. The aim of this method is to reduce pain and ease the stress on the tendon, especially after the injury and at the beginning of the healing process. You can check my list of best knee sleeves for running.
The knee strap wraps around the tendon just below the knee and changes the angle between the tendon and the patella and therefore reduce friction and stress on the tendon.
- Knee taping
Simple taping techniques can help with knee tendonitis, especially if you need to stay on your feet or do sports soon after the injury. They work in similar way as knee support and straps.
Initial home treatment of knee tendonitis is helpful right after the injury. However, they are not so effective over longer period of time. It is important to correct all the contributing factors that can lead to knee tendonitis, most importantly tendon, muscles and joint weaknesses. This is where various exercises can help and alleviate knee pain.
Why are exercises for knee tendonitis helpful?
Multiple muscles overlap the knee joint like quadriceps, thigh, hamstrings, calf, gastrocnemius and soleus. All these muscles work together to flex, extend and stabilize the knee.
Strengthening and stretching the muscles will not only stabilize the knee. It will also stimulate
tendons and ligaments to become more flexible, durable and resistant to stress. While repetitive activities cause microtears, inflammation and degeneration of structures of the knee, stretching and strengthening will stimulate the structures to regenerate, take more stress without further damage and prevent injuries.
This is the reason why you should exercise all muscles that are connected to knee joint and not just certain groups of muscles.
What kind of exercises you should do?
There are various exercises that can help with knee tendonitis. All of the exercises can be divided into three groups-stability, strengthening and stretching exercises. Some of the exercises overlap and have multiple functions. Although different types of exercises have different mechanism of work, in general they all have the same aim-to reduce the strain and make the knee and its structures more resistant to stress.
Before you do any other exercises for knee tendonitis, it is important to work on the stability of your knee joint and improve it. Muscle imbalances can put more strain on the knee and its structures, causing knee tendonitis or any other knee injury. Moreover, knee tendonitis can also cause muscle imbalances that affect the stability and limit range of motion.
Reducing the imbalances will not only strengthen the tendons, it will also increase the mobility of your knee. When your knee is stronger, there is less possibility for tendonitis to reoccur.
These exercises are actually simple stretching of the knee joint in all directions and standing on one leg. After a while, you can make these exercises more complex with adding different variations.
This type of exercises will strengthen the muscles that support your knee like quadriceps, hamstring, calf muscles and others. Stronger muscles will ease shock absorption and reduce stress on your knees. The less stress on the knees, the less chance for knee injuries or further aggravation of current injury.
Knee band exercises is a type of strengthening exercises that will improve your muscle strength fairly quick. All you need is a resistant band and a couple of exercises that you’re comfortable with. Remember to include all hip and lower leg muscles into your plan. In addition to building up your strength, they also improve stability.
If you currently don’t have resistance band, you can try knee bending exercises. These exercises are based on squats – a workout that almost everybody heard of and knows how to do it.
Flexibility of muscles and tendons is important for prevention of sports injuries. Stretching exercises will keep muscles long and flexible so they can offload the tendon and other structures of knee joint even more.
Knee tendonitis is a condition that can be serious if not treated properly and on time. That is why you should start your treatment as soon as possible.
Simple home treatments like RICE therapy are initially helpful. They will alleviate the pain and reduce the swelling. However, these methods only relief the symptoms and don’t correct factors that contributed to this injury. That is why as soon as the pain is gone you should start eliminating these factors.
The first step is getting a proper footwear, knee support or knee taping. They will reduce the stress and accelerate the healing process. If you’re overweight, changing your eating habits and losing weight will already make a difference after you’ve lost couple of pounds.
When the pain is gone, you should start with your exercises. Before you start with exercises you should know a couple of things. Knee tendonitis is a condition that didn’t happen overnight. It is a result of constant repetitive stress. That is why you should not expect improvements as soon as you’ve started exercising.
You should always start slowly and gradually. Building muscle and tendon strength and flexibility takes time. Over time you can, when you think you’re ready, you can make these exercises harder and improve your strength, flexibility and stability even more.
It is important to not ignore the pain and don’t overdo the exercises. These routines, especially the ones that are simple and easy, should not cause pain.
I hope that with this text I’ve thought you the basics of knee tendonitis exercises, so the next time you overused your tendon, muscles and joint you will know what to do.