“Running is bad for your knees!” is a comment all runners will hear at some point in their career. Usually this is from a non-running friend who is trying to rationalize their dislike of physical activity. Not to fear, that statement isn’t true. In fact, most people that develop knee arthritis are non-active and out of shape. Occasionally runners can develop knee pain and a common source of this pain is the patellar tendon - sometimes called Patellar Tendonitis. The patellar tendon is located right below the kneecap (patella) and attaches the quadricep muscle to the shin bone (tibia). It helps the quadricep muscle absorb force at foot strike. With increased mileage and running or walking intensity, the force on this area can cause inflammation and pain.
Pain in the patellar tendon does not necessarily mean that you must stop running. If you are not limping or changing how you are running, most of the time it is safe to continue training. Stretching your hamstrings and quadriceps before and after running, icing and proper shoe selection will help to ensure that you don’t miss any training. Temporarily avoiding some exercises that may increase stress on the front part of the knee, such as deep lunges and squats can improve patellar tendonitis symptoms. While these exercises can increase strength in the legs, they also an also increase pressure on the patellar tendon. Staying away from plyometric (jumping) exercises and hill repeats will lessen stress on the tendon and allow for a faster recovery. Running on flat surfaces at your normal pace is the most effective way to train while managing overuse injuries in the knee.
Swelling, pain that gets worse during a run, and pain on the shin bone below the tendon are all signs that this may be a more serious injury that needs assessment from a physical therapist or sports medicine physician.
These recommendations reflect some of the basics about this injury. As always, seek medical advice should you be experiencing painful symptoms. Feel free to email us at: Info@FitForLifePhysicalTherapy.com or call 614-981-1979 with questions or comments.
Joe Simko, PT
Fit For Life Physical Therapy