Does physical therapy work for patellar tendonitis?

Answered by Ricardo McCardle

Physical therapy is a highly effective treatment for patellar tendonitis. It plays a crucial role in reducing pain, improving function, and promoting healing of the injured tendon. The main focus of patellar tendonitis rehab is to strengthen the muscles that surround the knee joint, as well as address any imbalances or weaknesses that may have contributed to the development of the condition.

During physical therapy sessions, a variety of exercises and techniques may be used to target the affected area. These can include:

1. Eccentric exercises: Eccentric exercises involve lengthening the tendon while under tension, which has been found to be particularly beneficial for patellar tendonitis. One common eccentric exercise is the decline squat, where the individual slowly lowers themselves down from an elevated surface using only the affected leg.

2. Strengthening exercises: Strengthening exercises are used to target the muscles that support the knee joint, including the quadriceps, hamstrings, and calf muscles. These exercises may include leg presses, lunges, step-ups, and calf raises, among others. By strengthening these muscles, they can better support the patellar tendon and alleviate stress on the injured area.

3. Stretching exercises: Stretching exercises can help improve flexibility and reduce tension in the muscles surrounding the knee joint. These may include static stretches, dynamic stretches, and foam rolling techniques. Stretching can help alleviate stiffness, improve range of motion, and prevent further injury.

4. Manual therapy techniques: Manual therapy techniques, such as massage, joint mobilizations, and soft tissue mobilization, may be used by physical therapists to help reduce pain, improve circulation, and promote healing in the injured tendon.

In addition to these exercises and techniques, physical therapists may also provide education on proper body mechanics and movement patterns to prevent further injury. They may also recommend modifications to activities and sports that may aggravate the condition.

It is important to note that the effectiveness of physical therapy for patellar tendonitis can vary depending on the severity and duration of the condition, as well as individual factors such as age, overall health, and compliance with the prescribed treatment plan. In some cases, more intensive interventions, such as extracorporeal shockwave therapy or platelet-rich plasma injections, may be considered if conservative measures do not provide sufficient relief.

Personal experience: I have personally seen the benefits of physical therapy in treating patellar tendonitis. A few years ago, I developed patellar tendonitis from overuse during my training for a marathon. The pain in my knee was debilitating, and it significantly affected my ability to run and even perform daily activities. I sought the help of a physical therapist who developed a comprehensive treatment plan for me.

The physical therapy sessions consisted of a combination of strengthening exercises, stretching, and manual therapy techniques. I was also taught how to modify my running technique and incorporate proper warm-up and cool-down routines. Over the course of several weeks, I noticed a significant improvement in my symptoms. The pain gradually decreased, and I was able to gradually return to running without discomfort.

The key to successful physical therapy for patellar tendonitis is consistency and adherence to the prescribed exercises and treatments. It may take time and patience to see improvement, but with the guidance of a skilled physical therapist, it is possible to effectively manage and recover from patellar tendonitis.