Irritation in the patella tendon

Causes and treatment options

Whether it’s volleyball, basketball, or football – rapid start/stop movements, abrupt changes in direction, and quick jumps put a lot of mechanical stress on the knee joints. Pain experienced in the knee joints may indicate irritation of the patellar tendon. The pain associated with inflammation of the knee tendon is felt on and below the kneecap. Excessive strain on the knee can lead to tiny injuries and fraying at the origin of the patellar tendon at the lower end of the kneecap. Any type of occupational activity that requires one to work with bent knees for a long period of time also often leads to irritation of the patellar tendon. Various treatment options exist here. For example, certain medications and medical supports can relieve pain and promote the healing process. Chronic irritation of the patellar tendon is also known as “jumper’s knee.” This can lead to pain in the front of the knee during movement. If stress then continues to be placed on the knee, the tendon can tear either partially or completely.

Causes of irritated patellar tendons

The patellar tendon connects the thigh muscles with the tibia (shin bone) via the kneecap. This tendon is subjected to mechanical stress whenever the knee joint is moved. The patellar tendon often becomes irritated when continual excessive strain is placed on the knee joint – e.g. through heavy physical labor, inappropriate mechanical stress when playing sports, and when the stress placed on the tendon repeatedly exceeds its capacity to absorb such stress. Usually only one side of the tendon is affected; only in roughly 20% to 30% of all cases do both sides of the patella tendon become inflamed.

If this condition persists, so-called “degenerative” changes can then occur through normal wear. This type of wear (patellar chondropathy) causes pain in the area behind the knee cap and occurs among girls and young women especially. Here, the retropatellar cartilage usually remains unchanged, which is why the causes of the condition are generally unknown. It seems likely, however, that lateralization of the patella might be one of the contributing factors. Here, the kneecap slips out of the “guide groove” between the bony processes, so to speak. This type of wear can occur among both athletes and individuals whose work requires them to frequently bend their knees. Individuals who suffer from reduced elasticity of the patellar tendon, a high-riding kneecap (patella alta), or congenital ligament weakness are also susceptible to patellar tip syndrome.

Symptoms of an irritated patellar tendon

Pain that is focused in the kneecap area or directly below it is generally an indication of irritation in the patellar tendon. Such pain often initially occurs when the knee is bent – for example when climbing stairs or walking downhill. As the condition progresses, pain may also occur when a person is immobile, and such pain can persist for weeks or months. In rare cases, chronic patella tendon irritation can lead to a tear in the tendon if it is subjected to a sufficient degree of stress.

Diagnosing patellar tip syndrome

A physician can determine whether the possibility of acute patellar tip syndrome exists by asking about a patient’s work and athletic activities. As has already been mentioned, certain types of work and various types of sports are almost certain to lead to such knee problems. During the physical examination, the physician will put pressure on the tip of the kneecap at its lower end in order to see if this triggers pain that would indicate irritation of the patellar tendon. Patellar tip syndrome usually causes pain when the lower leg is pushed up against an object offering resistance.

Only rarely does this condition manifest itself through external indications such as swelling or reddening in the knee joint area. Patellar tip syndrome can be reliably diagnosed with an ultrasound examination (sonogram). During this procedure, a specialist will usually examine both knee joints in order to ensure changes in the injured knee can be correctly identified. The use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) only makes sense prior to an operation as a means of properly evaluating the extent of wear in the tendon and the surrounding tissue. However, MRI or X-ray examinations may be prescribed in order to exclude the possibility of other illnesses and determine the proper treatment.

Treating an irritated patella tendon

The most important methods for treating acute patellar tip syndrome are clearly immobility and pressure relief. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, all athletic activity should be discontinued for period of six weeks to three months and the knee joint should be protected as much as possible. After this period, more and more pressure and weight can slowly be put on the knee.

Medications prescribed by a doctor generally reduce pain and fight infections. However, such medications should only be taken for a short period of time, as they can lead to side effects in the gastrointestinal tract if taken over longer periods. Another important treatment component is physiotherapy with stretching exercises and massages. Conservative treatment options also include the use of supports and orthoses, which provide targeted support and pressure relief to the patella tendon and help reduce pain. All of the described measures are generally sufficient for treating patellar tip syndrome. Surgery is only considered if symptoms persist despite a person’s being gentle on the joints, participating in physiotherapy and massages, and wearing supports. Arthroscopy is one surgical option that can be used to remove inflamed parts of the patella tendon and surrounding tissue, for example.

Supports that relieve pressure on the patellar tendon

Medical supports are an important component of the options that exist for treating irritation of the patella tendon. GenuPoint® is a particularly narrow support that provides targeted pressure relief for the patella tendon during movement and physical activity. It is anatomically shaped and fits perfectly on the knee. It’s also easy to put on and comfortable to wear, and it doesn’t slip. All this is made possible by a soft knitted fabric and an integrated pressure pad. The pressure exerted by the latter on the tendon can be easily adjusted in line with the wearer’s anatomy and needs. GenuTrain P3 is an active support that protects the kneecap securely during every movement and therefore accelerates the healing process. Both orthopedic aids stabilize the knee, and those who wear them benefit from greater freedom of movement. These supports thus help relieve acute pain and ensure that those who use them can stay active.