If your kneecap feels tender or swollen, and you experience pain when jumping or bending or straightening your leg, you should visit your doctor to get checked for patellar tendonitis. Patellar tendinitis is a condition where the tendon that connects your shinbone to your kneecap (patella) becomes inflamed. Patellar tendonitis is often caused by repetitive movements, such as jumping up and down when playing a sport. However, Patellar tendinitis can also be caused by muscle imbalances. Take a look at why muscle imbalances are an issue and how physical therapy can help.
How Do Muscle Imbalances Cause Patellar Tendonitis?
There are muscles in the body that act in pairs and are called antagonist/agonist muscles. The muscle that contracts is called the agonist muscle, and the lengthening muscle is called the antagonist. For instance, when the quadriceps contract, they act as the agonist to the hamstrings, which lengthen or relax.
Ideally, the antagonist and agonist should be equal in their strength, but this isn't always the case. Strength training errors, poor posture, and inadequate stretching can cause muscle imbalances. Muscle imbalances can cause patellar tendonitis because one muscle group may be so strong that it actually pulls the kneecap in one direction, and the opposing muscle group may not have the strength to counteract that pulling motion. For instance, if the vastus lateralis (a part of the quadriceps) is stronger than the vastus lateralis, it will pull the kneecap and the tendon towards the outside of the body, which can lead to injury. One study even found that collegiate athletes with hamstrings-quadriceps imbalances tended to be more prone to knee injuries.
How Can a Physical Therapist Treat the Issue?
Before prescribing a treatment or exercise regimen, your physical therapist may want to observe your posture and gait to see if there are any biomechanical issues causing the patellar tendonitis. Your physical therapist may also order imaging tests to rule out other issues that are similar to patellar tendonitis.
Once you have a firm diagnosis, there are a number of things your physical therapist can do to treat the issue. For example, your physical therapist will have you do exercises in office and teach you how to do exercises at home so that you can strengthen muscle groups that are weak. Regular stretching also helps to reduce pain and muscle spasms. Your physical therapist can fit you with a knee strap, which is a supportive device that helps to distribute forces that run through the patellar tendon. Knee straps can be worn during exercise and help to prevent the tendon from being pulled out of alignment by stronger muscle groups. Lastly, Your physical therapist may prescribe corticosteroid medication to reduce inflammation in the tendon. Some corticosteroids can be delivered through injections, while others may be able to be applied topically.
Reach out to a company like Excel Physical Therapy and Wellness today to learn more.