Jumper’s Knee Treatment Exercises

Workout enthusiasts know the feeling of pushing their limits to achieve their fitness goals. However, sometimes pushing too hard can lead to injuries, such as patellar tendonitis, commonly known as jumper’s knee. This condition, characterized by pain and inflammation just below the kneecap, requires a smart and deliberate approach to treatment. 

In this article, we will explore the causes of patellar tendonitis, discuss the importance of rest, and provide a range of exercises and stretches recommended by physical therapist Mike Harrington, PT, DPT to aid in recovery and prevent future injury.

Understanding Patellar Tendonitis

The patellar tendon plays a crucial role in enabling movement by connecting the kneecap to the shinbone. This resilient band of tissue transmits the force from the quadriceps muscles, allowing the extension of the knee joint. 

However, due to its high-stress location, excessive strain on the patellar tendon can lead to the development of patellar tendonitis. 

Athletes engaging in activities that involve jumping, such as basketball and volleyball, are particularly prone to this injury. Nevertheless, repetitive knee stress from work-related duties or carrying extra weight can also contribute to its onset.

Addressing the Root Cause

To effectively address patellar tendonitis, it is essential to identify the underlying cause of the pain. Understanding why the injury occurred is the first step toward recovery.

Physical therapist Mike Harrington emphasizes the importance of correcting the factors that contributed to the condition in the first place. Once the cause is identified, appropriate treatment measures can be implemented.

Exercising with Patellar Tendonitis 

The ability to exercise during patellar tendonitis largely depends on the severity of the injury. If caught early, a period of relative rest combined with other treatments such as icing, using a patellar tendon strap, and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication may alleviate symptoms. 

For instance, runners can temporarily switch to walking to allow the tendon to recover. Gradually reintroducing exercises, starting at 50% intensity and increasing by 10% each week, can be beneficial if the pain subsides.

However, in more severe cases with consistent pain or weakness during daily activities, it is advisable to halt knee-stressing workouts for a few weeks. This includes activities involving running and jumping. 

Difficulty in climbing stairs is an indicator that modifications to the workout routine are necessary. Regardless of the severity, the return to exercise should always be gradual to prevent reinjury.

Stretching Exercises for Recovery

To rebuild strength and improve flexibility, it is crucial to develop load tolerance around the knee joint. This entails building strength in the muscles surrounding the knee while also focusing on flexibility. 

Tight muscles in the hamstrings, hips, and calves can contribute to increased stress on the knee, aggravating patellar tendonitis. 

The following stretches and exercises can help prevent and alleviate the condition:

  1. Hamstring Stretch: This stretch targets the hamstrings and hips to improve range of motion. Sit on a chair, extend one leg, keeping the knee straight and the heel resting on the floor. Slowly lean forward while maintaining a straight back. Hold for 30 seconds, switch legs, and repeat for three sets.
  2. Calf Stretch: This stretch addresses calf tightness, which can cause knee and foot pain. Stand facing a wall, place your hands on it, and step forward with one foot. Lean forward, bending the forward knee while keeping the back leg straight. Adjust the angle to increase or decrease the stretch intensity. Hold for 30 seconds, switch legs, and repeat for three sets.
  3. Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch: This stretch targets muscles across the hip and knee joints. Kneel on one knee, with the other leg in front at a 90-degree angle. Lean forward, slightly bending the front knee until you feel a stretch from the hip to the knee of the kneeling leg. Hold for 30 seconds, switch legs, and repeat for two sets.
  4. Straight Leg Raise: This exercise strengthens the abdominal muscles and upper thighs. Lie on your back, extend one leg while the other is bent at the knee with the foot flat on the floor. Raise the extended leg, keeping the knee straight, hold briefly, and then lower it back to the floor. Repeat 15 times, switch legs, and perform three sets.
  5. Squat/Wall Slides: This exercise strengthens the thighs. Lean with your back against a wall, feet positioned away from the base of the wall. Slowly slide down the wall, keeping your back against it, until your legs are at a 90-degree angle. Hold for 30 seconds, then rise. Repeat three times.
  6. Step Up: This body-resistance exercise targets the glutes and leg muscles, providing better support for knee function. Stand in front of a step or stool, step up onto the higher surface with one leg, followed by the other. Step back down in the same one-two pattern and return to the starting position. Alternate leading legs and repeat 15 times. Perform three sets.

Recovery Timeline

The recovery time for patellar tendonitis varies from person to person, but it is essential to exercise patience. 

Rushing the recovery process can lead to setbacks. Consistency and a willingness to modify activities are key. If knee pain persists after performing an activity, it is an indication to reduce the intensity level of the workout. 

Gradually increasing exercise intensity as symptoms subside will promote a safe and effective recovery.

The Bottom Line

Patellar tendonitis, or jumper’s knee, can be a setback for individuals striving to achieve their fitness goals. By understanding the causes of this condition and implementing a thoughtful treatment approach, recovery is possible. 

Rest, along with targeted stretches and exercises, can aid in the healing process. It is essential to listen to your body, gradually reintroduce exercise, and make necessary modifications to avoid reinjury. 

With patience and a consistent recovery plan, individuals can regain their strength and return to their active lifestyles. Remember, a smart and deliberate approach is the key to overcoming jumper’s knee and reaching your full potential.

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