Safe Exercises for Someone With Patellar Tendonitis

Are you nursing a case of patellar tendonitis, aka jumper's knee? Here's what you need to know about this condition and its causes, as well as exercises you can do with patellar tendonitis and those to avoid.

Hamstring stretching can help with patellar tendonitis.
Image Credit: fizkes/iStock/GettyImages

Read more: 11 Vitamins for Healthy Ligaments and Tendons

The Causes of Patellar Tendonitis

The Mayo Clinic explains that patellar tendonitis is an injury to your patellar tendon; this tendon connects your kneecap (patella) to your shinbone (tibia). The patellar tendon, together with the muscles at the front of your thigh, enable you to extend your knee so that you can run, jump and kick.

According to the University of Rochester, overuse of the knee joint, caused by frequently jumping on hard surfaces for example, can result in patellar tendonitis. The Mayo Clinic notes that this condition is common in athletes who play sports like volleyball and basketball. However, people who don't participate in sports that involve a lot of jumping can also get patellar tendonitis.

The Mayo Clinic says that the stress on the joint results in small tears in your tendon, which your body tries to repair. However, as the tears multiply, the result is knee pain, inflammation and a weakened tendon. The pain is likely to get worse when you run or jump, notes the University of California, San Diego. If the condition persists for more than a few weeks, it is referred to as patellar tendinopathy.

Treating Patellar Tendonitis

You should see your doctor if you are experiencing knee pain. Per the University of Rochester, the symptoms of patellar tendonitis can be similar to those of other medical conditions, so it's important that you get an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan from a medical professional.

A September 2015 study published in the journal Sports Health notes that most cases of patellar tendonitis can be resolved without surgery. The University of Rochester lists some measures that can help with recovery:

  • Medication: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like naproxen and ibuprofen can help with the pain and swelling.
  • Rest: It's important that you rest your knee and take care of it so that you don't worsen the injury.
  • Elevation: Keeping your knee elevated can help reduce the swelling.
  • Ice: Applying ice to the injured area can also bring down the swelling.
  • Knee exercises: Certain exercises can help stretch and strengthen the tendon.

Read more: How to Strengthen Tendons and Ligaments

Exercises to Do and Avoid

With patellar tendonitis, exercises to avoid include running, jumping and any other activity that's causing the problem, says the University of Rochester. You can only resume these activities once your injury has healed.

The University of California, Berkeley, describes some of the stretching and strengthening exercises you can do to help your knee. The exercises may cause some fatigue in your knee and hip muscles; however, you should discontinue them if they worsen your pain.

Move 1: Straight Leg Raises

  1. Lie down on your back with your uninjured knee bent and your injured leg straight.
  2. Tighten the muscle above your injured knee and lift your leg about 1 foot off the floor.
  3. Keeping the muscle tight, lower your foot slowly.
  4. Do three sets of 15 repetitions.

Move 2: Outer Hip Raises

  1. Lie down on your uninjured side. You can use your arm to cushion your head.
  2. Keep your uninjured knee bent and your injured leg straight.
  3. Raise your injured leg upward, keeping your toes pointed slightly downward. You should feel your glutes working.
  4. Do three sets of 15 repetitions.

Move 3: Inner Hip Raises

  1. Lie down on your injured side with your injured leg straight.
  2. Bend your uninjured knee and bring it forward, so that your toes are resting on the floor in front of you.
  3. Tighten the muscle in your injured knee and raise your leg off the floor.
  4. Lower it slowly.
  5. Do three sets of 15 repetitions.

Move 4: Bridging

  1. Lie down on your back. Keep your arms straight by your sides.
  2. Plant both your feet on a bench or chair.
  3. Tighten your abdominal muscles and raise your hips off the floor by squeezing your glutes. Keep your back straight; don't let it arch.
  4. Do three sets of 15 repetitions.

Move 5: Hamstring Stretch

  1. Lie down on your back near a corner or doorway, so that you can extend your uninjured leg straight on the floor and rest your injured leg against a wall.
  2. Place your injured leg against the wall, going higher until you feel the stretch.
  3. Hold the stretch for two minutes. Do not continue if you experience tingling or numbness in the leg.

Move 6: Quad and Hip Flexor Stretch

  1. Lie facedown on a bench with your feet hanging off it.
  2. Wrap a towel, belt or jump rope around the bottom of the foot of your injured leg and hold the ends in your hands.
  3. Pull on the towel so that it brings your foot closer to your thigh, bending your knee.
  4. Hold the stretch for two minutes.

Apart from these exercises, a December 2016 study published in the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy recommends certain types of cardio for patellar tendonitis. Swimming, cycling and pool running are activities that can help you stay fit and move your knee joint without putting too much load on it.

Read more: 9 Health Benefits of Swimming That'll Convince You to Take a Dip

Is This an Emergency?

To reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 infections, it is best to call your doctor before leaving the house if you are experiencing a high fever, shortness of breath or another, more serious symptom.
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