The trouble with tendinitis of the knee

Published: October, 2013

Tendinitis of the knee — inflammation of the tendons, the tissue that connects muscle to bone — has stopped many an athlete short. Whether you are a weekend warrior on the basketball court or training for marathon, tendinitis can creep up on you and interfere with routine activities, let alone recreational ones.

Symptoms of tendinitis include:

  • Pain above or below the kneecap where the tendons attach to the bone
  • Swelling
  • Pain that recurs with particular activities and eases with rest
  • In severe cases, pain that no longer improves with rest
  • In some cases, a constant ache that disrupts sleep.

Tendinitis usually results from overuse and is more common in people who engage in high-intensity activities on a regular basis. Excess weight puts additional stress on the tendons of the knee and can contribute to tendinitis. With age, tendons become stiffer and more prone to becoming inflamed, while supporting muscles become weaker and less able to provide protection. Tight hamstrings and quadriceps make you more susceptible to knee tendinitis.

During the first few days of feeling pain in your knees, you should rest, ice your knees, take over-the-counter pain relievers and use a knee support. Rehabilitation for tendinitis includes exercises to improve flexibility and address muscle imbalances that place extra stress on the tendons. Talk to your doctor or a physical therapist about which exercises are right for you. Once the pain and swelling are gone, you can resume normal activities (usually in a few days) and get back to more demanding athletic pursuits in a few weeks, after you have regained muscle strength.

If pain doesn't improve, see your doctor. She or he may recommend additional treatments and in rare cases surgery.

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

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