Key Points about Patellar Tendinitis

  • Patellar tendinitis occurs when the tissue that connects the shinbone to the kneecap becomes inflamed from overuse.
  • The condition is marked by pain that begins during exercise or while using the knee joint and worsens over time to inhibit certain physical activities.
  • Patellar tendinitis is first treated with rest, ice, anti-inflammatories, physical therapy and avoiding activities that cause pain.
  • If conservative remedies are ineffective, your doctor may recommend additional treatments such as corticosteroid injections or surgery.
  • Call your doctor if you knee pain persists or worsens over time, is accompanied by joint swelling, or gets in the way of your daily life.
Common related conditions
Knee Arthritis Knee Dislocation Knee Fractures Conditions Thigh and Lower Leg Fractures

Overview

Patellar tendinitis is an inflammation of the tissue that connects the shinbone to the kneecap. This inflammation results from overuse of the knee joint. Patellar tendinitis often occurs in people who play a sport or have an occupation that requires running or jumping motions.

Treatment for patellar tendinitis involves resting and icing the joint, avoiding activities that cause pain, and taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medicines as needed. Your doctor may also prescribe physical therapy exercises to stretch and strengthen the legs. If these remedies do not improve your symptoms, your doctor may recommend additional measures such as corticosteroid injections or surgery.

Set up an appointment with your doctor if your knee pain persists or worsens over time, is accompanied by joint swelling, or impairs your ability to carry out daily tasks. Your doctor will assess the cause and extent of your knee pain and recommend a treatment plan accordingly.

Patellar tendinitis causes

Patellar tendinitis occurs when the knee is overused or overexerted over time, which causes chronic stress on the patellar tendon. This chronic stress leads to inflammation, and pain in the knee.

Patellar tendinitis risk factors

You may be more likely to develop patellar tendinitis if you:

  • Play sports that require frequent jumping and running, which can stress the patellar tendon
  • Have tightness, weakness, or imbalances in the leg muscles
  • Have a chronic illness such as lupus, diabetes, or rheumatoid arthritis

Patellar tendinitis symptoms

The main symptom of patellar tendinitis is pain in the front of the knee that:

  • May start while exercising or during physical activity
  • Worsens over time
  • Begins to inhibit your ability to play sports, climb stairs, or perform other activities that stress the knee

Patellar tendinitis complications

If left untreated, patellar tendinitis can worsen. Continuing to use the affected joint can lead to increased pain, impaired joint function, and patellar tendinopathy—a more serious condition.

Patellar tendinitis prevention

You can lower your risk of developing patellar tendinitis by:

  • Stopping activities that cause you pain, as soon as you notice it
  • Strengthening thigh muscles
  • Ensuring your form and technique is safe and correct when exercising

Patellar tendinitis diagnosis

When diagnosing the cause and type of your knee pain, your doctor may put pressure on various areas of the knee to identify the injured area. Your doctor may also order imaging tests such as:

  • X-ray
  • MRI scan
  • Ultrasound

Patellar tendinitis treatment

As a first line of treatment for knee pain, your doctor will generally recommend resting your legs and avoiding activities that cause pain, icing the affected knee, and taking over-the-counter pain relievers.

If your doctor suspects patellar tendinitis, she may provide you with physical therapy exercises, which aim to stretch and strengthen the knee and leg. Your doctor may also recommend:

  • Using a patellar tendon strap, which aims to relieve stress on the patellar tendon
  • Iontophoresis, in which a special device delivers a topical corticosteroid into the skin
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers

If these therapies do not alleviate your pain, your doctor may suggest more invasive measures, such as:

  • Corticosteroid injections
  • Oscillating needle procedure to remove sections of damaged tissue
  • Surgery

When to seek care

Set up an appointment with your doctor your pain:

  • Does not improve with rest and ice
  • Gets worse over time
  • Is accompanied by redness or swelling in the knee
  • Gets in the way of your daily life

Next Steps

Your doctor will help set up a treatment plan that works best for you.