Healthbeat

Taming tendinitis in the knee

Tendons are the bands of fibrous tissue that attach muscle to bone. Tendinitis — tendon inflammation — is often a repetitive strain injury. You get it by repeating the same motion over and over, which irritates the tendon. Joints commonly affected by tendinitis include the elbow, heel, and wrist.

Weekend warriors (folks who engage in high-intensity activities such as running or basketball on the weekend but do little to maintain conditioning during the week) often develop tendinitis in the knees. Simply being overweight can also contribute to knee tendinitis. Age is another risk factor. Over time, tendons become less flexible and the involved muscles lose strength, both of which further stress the tendons. Inflexible hamstring and quadricep muscles make you more susceptible as well.

Symptoms of tendinitis of the knee include:

  • pain above or below the kneecap
  • swelling
  • pain that recurs with particular activities and eases with rest
  • in severe cases, pain becomes constant (in spite of resting the joint) and can even disrupt sleep

Here are some simple steps you can take to quell tendinitis pain. At the first sign of trouble:

  • limit activities that put stress on your knees
  • apply ice
  • use over-the-counter pain relievers, ideally aspirin or another nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory like ibuprofen or naproxen
  • use a knee support.

Once the pain and any swelling are gone, try easing back into your normal activities and hold off on more demanding athletic activities for a few weeks. Typically, tendinitis goes away in a few weeks or months. Your doctor may recommend extra treatments for particularly stubborn cases.

To keep tendinitis from coming back, ask your doctor about exercises to improve flexibility and address and muscle imbalances that may be placing stress on your knees.

For more information on recognizing and treating knee tendinitis as well as ligament issues, tissue tears, osteoarthritis and other knee conditions, buy Knees and Hips, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.