Jumper's knee, also known as patellar tendonitis, is a common injury among athletes, especially those that play basketball and volleyball. In fact, up to 50% of elite volleyball players have patellar tendonitis. While common among athletes, anyone can develop jumper’s knee. You don’t necessarily have to be overly active or play sports to develop this condition. In this blog we will dive into the symptoms of patellar tendonitis, diagnosing patellar tendonitis, and what natural treatment for patellar tendonitis may help!
What is Jumper’s Knee (Patellar Tendonitis)?
Jumper’s knee is a condition caused by inflammation in the tendon that connects your shinbone to your kneecap. Pain may be mild or severe, depending on the severity of the injury.
The patellar tendon connects with the muscles in your thigh, allowing you to run, kick and jump. It’s what helps you extend your knee.
Causes of Jumper’s Knee
Patellar tendinitis is caused by repeated and excessive stress on the knee. Much like other forms of tendinitis, jumper’s knee is an overuse injury. You can get it from exercise, sports, or other overuse activities.
Repeated stress on the knee can create micro-tears in the tendon. Eventually, the damage causes inflammation and can weaken the tendon.
Several factors can increase your risk of developing jumper’s knee, including:
- Playing on hard surfaces
- Wearing shoes without enough padding
- Chronic diseases that can weaken the tendon
- Stiff leg muscles
- Improperly aligned ankles, feet, and legs
- Uneven muscle strength in the legs
Athletes are at greater risk of developing this injury because running, squatting, and jumping put excessive strain on the patellar tendon. In fact, a study from 2014 found that an important risk factor for jumper’s knee in volleyball players was how often they jumped during practice and play.
But even if you don’t play sports, it’s possible to develop jumper's knee. Certain illnesses, such as autoimmune conditions, kidney disease, and diabetes, can affect blood flow to the knee and eventually weaken the tendon.
Symptoms of Patellar Tendonitis
Common symptoms of jumper’s knee include:
- Pain when walking, jumping, or running
- Swelling in the affected area
- Pain when bending or extending the knee
- Tenderness in the kneecap
- Pain in the patellar tendon
If the injury is left untreated, the pain can become progressively worse. It may eventually become difficult or impossible to engage in physical activity or even daily activities, like walking up the stairs.
It's important to seek treatment if the pain and swelling last more than just a few days.
Diagnosing Jumper’s Knee
Diagnosing patellar tendinitis is similar to diagnosing other forms of tendonitis. It starts with a physical examination and a look at your medical history. Your doctor will want to know:
- What types of physical activity you have been engaging in (if any)
- When your symptoms appeared
- What type of symptoms you’re experiencing
For an accurate diagnosis, your doctor will want to examine your knee, check to see where the pain is coming from and ask you to bend or extend your leg to check for symptoms. Your doctor may also order imaging tests to get a better look at your knee and patellar tendon. Imaging tests can help rule out other possible medical conditions. These tests may include:
Treatment for Patellar Tendonitis
Without treatment, jumper’s knee can get progressively worse. The damage can become severe and ultimately limit your mobility.
Rest is one of the most important things you can do to treat jumper’s knee. It’s important to stop the activity that caused the injury, whether it’s a sport or some form of exercise.
While rest is crucial, it’s also one of the hardest things for people to do, especially athletes. But jumper’s knee can be a career-ender for professional athletes who don’t give their body the rest it needs.
Treatment of the injury will depend on the severity of the injury. Doctors will start with conservative treatments to reduce the pain and inflammation.
Many doctors will recommend physical therapy for jumper’s knee. Therapy can help strengthen leg muscles while reducing pain and inflammation.
Along with stretching and strengthening exercises, the physical therapist may also use other forms of therapy to help with healing, such as:
- Hot and cold therapy
- Electrical stimulation
- Ultrasound therapy
A knee brace may be recommended to stop the damage from getting progressively worse. A brace will keep your knee in place while exercising or performing everyday activities.
You may also be given an exercise plan to follow at home to help strengthen your muscles and prevent damage.
If conservative treatment is ineffective, surgery may be the next step. The goal is to repair the patellar tendon using traditional or arthroscopic surgery. Recovery time can vary, but for some, it can take as long as 12 months.
Rest and physical therapy can help prevent the need for surgery. It’s important to start treating the condition early on to prevent progressive tendon damage.
Jumper’s Knee Treatment Natural Options
Rest and physical therapy can help you heal from this injury, but there are also natural treatments that may help with the pain and inflammation while you recover, including:
Studies have shown that CBD (cannabidiol) may be effective at treating:
Topical CBD can be especially effective at treating pain, including from jumper’s knee. One major advantage of using CBD creams is that you can apply them directly to the painful area for quick relief.
DMSO is easily absorbed by the body and also enhances the absorption of other ingredients it may be mixed with.
Along with playing an important role in metabolism and energy production, alpha-lipoic acid also acts as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.
It’s also believed to help lower levels of inflammatory markers, including ICAM-1 and IL-6.
Patellar Tendonitis can be very painful and even debilitating. Rest, care, and natural treatments may help you get through the healing process and on the road to recovery.