Patellar Tendonitis (Jumper’s Knee) and Therapeutic Ultrasound
When people engage in sport, especially high impact sport, they tend to run the risk of sustaining an injury. One such injury that athletes tend to endure while engaged in repetitive jumping sports is referred to as patellar tendonitis; more commonly jumper’s knee. This particular injury is a common cause of pain as stress is placed on the tendon that connects the kneecap (the patella) to the shin bone. As jumper’s knee is such a common injury and athletes tend to continue to play through the aches there are 4 stages or classifications of this injury. Depending on how far along the athlete is on this spectrum will determine the treatment option that are available as there is a variety; including therapeutic ultrasound.
There are a few common signs that people developing patellar tendonitis can watch out for when they notice them start to appear, that can possibly prevent serious injury. Usually the first of sign that athletes should be aware of is aching knee pain, also note the severity. In the beginning the pain is only noticeable after the activity, but if treatment is not sought, the pain and injury can increase to the point that there is a full blown tendon tear. Common repetitive jumping in sports like basketball and volleyball have been associated with the micro tears that occur in this tendon and jumper’s knee is the cause of repetitive sustained micro tears that outpace the body’s ability to heal them. As with the pain there are also associations between stiff ankle movement and ankle sprain when developing patellar tendonitis as these joints try to compensate for the injury. Using the available treatment options, such as therapeutic ultrasound, and keeping an eye on the progression of the injury will prevent a debilitating tendon tear.
There are four stages to be aware of when tracking the progression of jumper’s knee from slight ache to full tendon tear. The first stage is associated with pain only after activity and does not present any functional impairment. The second classification is that they pain occurs during the activity as well as persisting after the activity. There may be a slight functional impairment in stage 2 but nothing major. Stage 3 is characterized with prolonged pain during and after activity with increasing functional impairment. The final stage, stage 4 is when the injury has become a major problem and a complete tendon tear occurs that requires surgical repair. By keeping close watch on this injury people can prevent the tendon tear and seek viable treatment options to help heal the aches before surgery is necessary.
The treatment methods employed to help recovery from patellar tendonitis varies depending on the severity and stage that the injury has progressed to. The most common way for people to treat the initial signs of the injury are to utilize the RICE method: rest, ice, compression, and elevation. This method when used in conjunction with time off of sport, is the first step that people can use to halt the progression of jumper’s knee. When the injury has progressed past this point into stage 2 or 3 most people seek the assistance of a physiotherapist. The therapist will use stretches, exercise and often therapeutic ultrasound to help accelerate the healing process. If it does progress to stage 4 then the only treatment option becomes surgery.
Therapeutic ultrasound works by using high-frequency sound waves that are pulsed over the injured tendon which accelerates the healing process, decrease muscle spasms, improve range of motion and diminish pain and inflammation. Therapists use therapeutic ultrasound in conjunction with exercises and stretches increase their effectiveness by helping loosen up the blood and improve tissue elasticity. This ultrasound therapy is used up to twice a day in more severe injuries that the athletes need to recover, and lasts about 10 – 15 minutes per session.
Patellar tendonitis is a repetitive strain that can be very painful if careful attention is not paid to its progression. The best way to prevent the injury from progressing is to employ the RICE method when you notice the ache. If the injury progresses into stage 2 or 3 then it is prudent to seek more robust treatment options including physiotherapy and therapeutic ultrasound.