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Physical Therapy for Patellar Tendonitis – Information, Exercises, and More

Knee pain can really take a toll on you.

If you have patellar tendonitis, it can hurt to compete and play sports, workout, or even do normal activities, like walking or climbing stairs.

Luckily, patellar tendonitis can be treated and you can get relief from the pain and discomfort.

We can help you learn more about this injury and explain some of the treatment options that may be available to you.

What is Patellar Tendonitis?

A strain on the tendon that connects the patella to the tibia is called patellar tendonitis.

Also called Jumper’s Knee, patellar tendonitis is classified as pain and inflammation in the tendon between the kneecap and shinbone.

Stress or strain in the tendon from repeated high-impact activities can cause pain, inflammation, and in more severe cases, tears in the tendon.

These strains and tears are called tendonitis. 

If you are experiencing pain under or behind your kneecap, you could have patellar tendonitis.

What Causes Patellar Tendonitis?

Patellar tendonitis, or Jumper’s Knee, is most commonly diagnosed as a sports-related injury. 

But you don’t have to be a high-level athlete or do hardcore workouts to have this condition. 

Some causes of patellar tendonitis include:

  • Physical activity
  • Tight muscles
  • Chronic Illness

Regardless of the cause of your patellar tendonitis, treatment remains similar.

Physical Activity

Certain physical activities can cause a lot of stress on your knees.

In particular, running, jumping, and weight lifting can put an additional load on the patellar tendon.

Some sports and athletes are more likely to suffer from patellar tendonitis:

  • Basketball players
  • Volleyball players
  • Weight lifters
  • Tennis players

While you don’t have to be an athlete to have a knee injury, the repetitive stress from these sports can increase the likelihood of injury for those athletes.

Tight Muscles

When you have tight hamstrings and quadriceps, the knee joint and tendons can be responsible for more than their fair share of the strain from daily activities and sports.

Tight leg muscles can cause pain, and even injury like patellar tendonitis, if the patient is not being careful to protect their joints or participate in high impact activities.

Chronic Illness

Chronic illness can cause problems with joints, including the knee. Some chronic illnesses can disrupt your blood flow, weakening tendons, and making you more susceptible to injury.

Chronic illnesses and conditions that can play a part in getting patellar tendonitis include:

Autoimmune disorders, such as Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis

Patellar Tendonitis Symptoms

Patellar tendonitis is typically associated with pain and inflammation.

Injuries to the tendon can also cause the affected knee and leg to be weaker than normal and can disrupt normal activity.


Pain is usually the first symptom patients notice. 

Patellar tendonitis typically causes pain behind the bottom of the kneecap. The pain can range from mild discomfort to debilitating. 

The extent of the injury can directly relate to the amount or severity of pain.

When the knee is bent, you could experience pain at the top of the tibia, right below the patella.

When the knee is straight, you might feel pain and tenderness at the bottom of the knee.


Weakness in the knee or leg that is affected is a commonly reported symptom of patellar tendonitis.

If the tendon has torn, even slightly, the joint can become unstable and weak.

You may be limited in the activities you can perform due to instability.


Swelling is not the most common symptom of patellar tendonitis, but it can occur. 

You may notice mild swelling behind the patella, where the knee and tibia meet.

Major swelling could be a sign of a more severe injury. If you experience major swelling, it is recommended that you see a physician immediately.

Patellar Tendonitis Treatment

Treatment for knee issues is crucial to preventing further injury.

A physician or doctor of physical therapy can design a treatment plan that matches your lifestyle and needs.

Athletes should be especially diligent in seeking treatment for knee injuries, such as patellar tendonitis, to minimize the potential for further damage.

RICE Treatment

If you have ever had a knee injury, you’ve probably heard of the RICE method. It is commonly used for minor injuries received during physical activity.

RICE treatment consists of:

  • Rest: take a break from physical activity or reduce the intensity — this is very important to prevent worsening the injury.
  • Ice: use ice packs up to 20 minutes at a time, several times a day to reduce pain and swelling.
  • Compression: wrap the injured knee with a compression bandage to help with swelling.
  • Elevation: laying back and propping the knee up with pillows to raise it above your heart to reduce pain and swelling.


Pain is a manageable symptom of patellar tendonitis.

Many doctors will recommend nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as naproxen or ibuprofen.

These over-the-counter pain relievers can help reduce inflammation and minimize your pain during daily activities.


Some doctors are recommending another option for knee injuries like patellar tendonitis.

Cryotherapy can help reduce pain and swelling in the affected knee.

It can be used as part of a physical therapy treatment plan or on its own. Your doctor and physical therapist can help you decide if cryotherapy is right for you.

Physical Therapy

Part of your rehabilitation and treatment plan will likely be physical therapy.

If you have patellar tendonitis, physical therapy exercises can help strengthen the muscles supporting the knee to take the strain off the patellar tendon.

A Doctor of Physical Therapy can help develop a treatment plan for your specific needs.

Patellar Tendonitis Physical Therapy – Will PT Help?

Most doctors will agree that physical therapy for patellar tendonitis is the best treatment option.

This option can not only relieve the pain and discomfort but, with proper guidance, can reduce the occurrence of injury in the future.

Physical therapists, like those at In Motion O.C., can design a plan that fits your unique needs and get you back in action.

Best Patellar Tendonitis Exercises

Your physical therapist can prescribe exercises to aid in your recovery from patellar tendonitis.

Some commonly used exercises your physical therapist may include in a treatment plan are:

  • Straight leg raises
  • Terminal knee extensions
  • Hamstring and quadricep stretches

Working with your physical therapist to know how to perform the exercises correctly is crucial.

Straight Leg Raises

Leg raises can be performed laying down, with your legs out straight.

You can slowly lift the injured leg and then lower it back to the surface.

Terminal Knee Extensions

Knee extensions can be done with a resistance band. 

Put the band around the injured leg, behind the knee, and the other end around a door handle or other stable object.

Bend your knee to about a 45-degree angle, then slowly straighten it. 

Hamstring and Quadricep Stretches

Stretching is an important part of treatment and rehabilitation for patellar tendonitis. 

Stretching the hamstrings and quads can reduce strain on your knee. This creates greater muscular balance and can reduce the chance of further injury.

How In Motion O.C. Can Help With Patellar Tendonitis

Patellar tendonitis is painful but treatable. You deserve the best treatment and care available.

In Motion O.C. is the number one rated physical therapist on both Google and Yelp! because we offer personalized treatment and unmatched service for our patients.

Your knees carry you through life. Don’t trust them to just anyone. Contact us to find out how our professional staff can care for you.

*This information about physical therapy for Patellar Tendonitis was reviewed by Dr Natalie Thomas, PT, DPT. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us here.

In Motion O.C.