Patellar Tendonitis: How To Avoid Runner's Knee

Knee pain is the bane of many a runner. Every step of every run we demand that our knees flex and roll forward seamlessly into a stride. When that flexion causes pain, though, it is impossible to ignore. One of the most common knee injuries found in runners in patellar tendonitis.

The patellar tendon runs from the kneecap to the shinbone (tibia) and, when injured, causes pain between the knee and the shin. In the initial stages of the injury, the tendon might only hurt during a workout or after a hard effort. As the injury worsens, though, the pain can affect the normal activities of one's day. When attempting to determine if you may have patellar tendonitis, it is important to know the symptoms of other common knee afflictions.

Patellofemoral pain syndrome (aka- "Runner's Knee") is usually a dull pain in the front of your knee. Iliotibial band (IT band) syndrome typically leads to pain on the outside of the knee. Both are distinguishable from the pain under the knee that is caused by patellar tendonitis. Regardless of which symptoms you exhibit, if your knee pain persists for more than a few days, it is advisable that you lower your mileage or stop running entirely and contact medical professional so you can be properly examined and discuss the treatment methods for your injury.

There are a number of causes that lead to patellar tendonitis in runners, the most common of which are muscle imbalances in the upper leg or tightness in the hamstrings and quads. Several treatments have been found effective in alleviating pain caused by patellar tendonitis.

First, a patellar tendon strap can apply compression to the lower knee, supporting the patellar tendon and relieving pain. Next, a routine of stretching will loosen the muscles of the upper leg and release tension that can be tugging on the patellar tendon. Finally, incorporating exercises to strengthen your quads can fix muscle imbalances and add stability to your knee region. Here is a sample of three exercises that have been found effective in helping treat patellar tendonitis

  1. Sitting Knee Extensions- While sitting in a chair, lift one foot out until your leg is straight and hold for 2 seconds before returning to the original position. Add weight to your ankle to make this more challenging. Do 20 repeats on each leg.
  2. Wall Sits- Stand with your back against a wall and lower yourself until your knees are at a 90 degree angle. Hold for 5 seconds, then return to a standing position. Repeat 10-15 times.
  3. Decline Squats- Stand on a board that is at a 25 degree decline. Lift one leg off the ground and  squat slowly with your other leg. Once you are as far down as you can go, lower the leg that was raised and use both legs to stand up. Do 2 sets of 15 squats per leg. This exercise is challenging and complicated. If you feel excessive knee pain when attempting it, stop immediately.

Patellar tendonitis can stop you in your tracks, but if you recognize the symptoms early and begin a routine of stretching and strength work, you will be able to put it behind you and begin running again in no time.