05 Feb Aching, Painful Knee Injury? Introducing Patellar Tendinopathy
It’s easy to injure the knee joints. As weight-bearing joints, the knees have a great deal of responsibility when it comes to movement. We are inclined to take our knee health for granted, that is, until we start to experience aches and pains or swelling. Often known as ‘jumpers knee’, patellar tendonitis translates into an injury caused by overuse and where the tendon of the patella is overstressed. The tendons are tough fibers which connect the bone to the muscles and where injury exists, they tend to occur near to the joints.
Knee Joint Anatomy
Located just below the kneecap (patella) the tendon is attached to the kneecap and the shin bone (tibial tuberosity). It transfers the force of the quadriceps as the knee straightens. This is an important tendon for movement generally. Think about when you walk down the stairs and must control the knee. But, the quadriceps and this tendon are involved in sporting activities too i.e. jumping, kicking and running.
The Cause of Pain
Excessive jumping up and landing will place a significant strain on the tendon of the patella. Hence the name, ‘jumpers knee’ although it can be caused in many ways. Although pain may be subtle at first, repeated movement and strain – perhaps jumping and landing again, will strain the tendon and eventually, cause lesions. Over time, it will lead to patellar tendinopathy.
- Pain increases on movement and occasionally when sitting for too long
- Tenderness over the tendon area
- Gradual pain but increasing
- Anterior knee pain at the site of the tendon
- Stiffness in the joint in the morning
- Tendon may feel thicker than the one on the opposite side.
If you are involved in sports, it’s important to build up carefully. Do not increase training levels dramatically or increase intensity. Avoid working out on rigid surfaces where it will impact shock absorption. If you have tight quadriceps and hamstring muscles then, it’s important to increase flexibility and work on lower limb biomechanics.
There are four phases:
- Reactive tendinopathy – normal recovery expected
- Tendon disrepair – tissue is starting to heal
- Degenerative tendinopathy – cell death starts to happen
- Tendon tear or rupture – surgery is necessary
When you realize that you have sustained an injury, rest the knee as much as possible and apply an ice pack for up to 20-minutes each time. Continue this treatment hourly for up to 72-hours. Seek physical therapy to check biomechanics and strengthen the quadriceps.
Although treatment for this condition will typically start with anti-inflammatory medication along with physically therapy, there may come a time when stem cell therapy must be considered. Think of stem cells as a way to regenerate the body’s tissues naturally. When injected into place, the stem cells transform into the type of cells needed to repair the damaged knee tendon.
Naturally, we lose stem cells as we age and so, this means, healing slows. Stem cell treatments often yield high success rates and can regenerate damaged tissue. Treatment for this condition takes only a few hours although the results are not instant. Healing will typically take up to 4-6 weeks but there will be a reduction in pain as well as increased function to the knee joint.