Cycling can be a low impact workout that that burns calories and tones muscles, without putting excess weight on the joints. However, it is not without its own risk of injury. A common injury includes patellar tendonitis.
The patella is the tendon which connects your kneecap and shinbone. It serves to control the muscles in front of your thigh and aids in basic leg movements such as running, jumping, and kicking.
Patellar tendonitis is one of the most common injuries among athletes in any sport that requires extensive use of the legs.
Understanding the symptoms of this injury and how to adequately treat it and prevent it from happening is important anyone who loves cycling.
Symptoms of Patellar Tendonitis
Depending on the type of exercises you partake in, patellar tendonitis can start to manifest in different ways.
For example, athletes who participate in activities that are intensive on the knees such as basketball are likely to first notice it after landing hard after a jump.
Alternatively, those who prefer sports such a cycling are more likely to notice the condition grow over time.
Deciphering the difference between a “little joint pain” and a serious injury is the hard part. We work our bodies hard when enjoying our favorite activities – and that comes with its own pleasantly sore muscles.
It is not uncommon for someone who is just starting to enjoy different physical activities to feel like they are supposed to be sore from working new muscles.
The type of soreness that an individual feels with patellar tendinitis goes beyond the typical sore muscle. It can ache to the point that the mind registers it as uncomfortable pain.
The shooting pain may even feel like it is spreading through the knee cap into the back of the knee and up the thigh muscles.
Symptoms of patellar tendonitis include mild swelling or warmth on or around the knee, piercing pain that continues to worsen or leaves you feeling like you should not workout for a few days, and increased joint pain when using your knees (climbing stairs, getting up from a chair, etc.).
What Causes the Pain?
Simply put, patellar tendonitis is caused by putting too much stress on the knee joint. It is comparable to other injuries like “tennis elbow” which is associated with the way tennis players and food servers alike overuse their elbow joints.
The pain stems from small tears in the tendon which are often caused by a lack of elasticity. Healthy tendons are less likely to experience patellar tendonitis. This primarily happens for three reasons:
- Lack of hydration or proper levels of glucosamine hinder the elasticity of the joint.
- Overweight body puts more pressure on the area than it can handle.
- Repetitive motions work the tendon to the point which is continues to tear without a chance to heal and becomes weak.
The first step in diagnosing patellar tendonitis cycling is to contact your primary care physician. They will run a series of small tests to determine if an x-ray or MRI is needed.
These tests will be used to further assess the damage and determine a course of treatment. Basic pain relievers may be recommended but natural solutions are always a better option. A few natural ways to treat inflammation include:
Change in exercise
By strengthening the muscles around the patella, you can actually inhibit further injury. Exercises like low-impact walking, swimming, and yoga are the perfect option for this.
Change in diet
Antioxidants and vitamins that are part of a healthy diet support internal cell growth which helps individuals recover from injury faster. Implement more dark leafy greens and berries to your diet to reap the benefits of both.
Add Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Fish Oil
One of the most common ways to support proper joint health and aide in treating patellar tendonitis easily is by taking a fish oil and omega-3 fatty acid supplement.
Add Glucosamine and chondroitin
The two most vital nutrients for joint health and repair are glucosamine and chondroitin. It is recommended that individuals intake 1500mg of each, daily, if they wish to see results in pain management and joint repair.
It is also recommended that individuals use the liquid version of these supplements instead of the tablet form because it provides better absorption for the body.
Additional therapy will be recommended. Most of these can be completed in the comfort of your own home. It is vital that every person suffering with patellar tendonitis understand that consistency is the most important part of recovery.
Make time for the exercises recommended by your physician each day.
At-home treatment options for patellar tendonitis will include:
Basic leg movements will help you focus on strengthening the leg muscles to better support the patellar tendon.
Some exercises might include leg lifts: stand straight with one arm on a chair for balance and lift your leg in front of you, hold for five seconds and repeat; leg kicks: raise up one leg so that your knee is light with the hip and kick forward; and butterfly kicks: lay on your back, legs in the air, and move them in a crisscross motion.
When you suffer from patellar tendonitis, stretching before and after a workout is not the only thing that is important.
Your body needs to constantly be stretched as a way to condition the tendon for the excessive movements that come from activities like cycling.
This is primarily done through yoga. It is the easiest and most effective way to help lengthen the tendon and improve its overall heath.
Lastly, adding a patellar strap will help redirect the pain. This simple elastic-style strap wraps around the knee at the base of the patellar. It applies pressure to the area as a way to distribute the force of your movements.
All types of individuals who suffer from this condition find benefits of using this strap when enjoying their favorite activities.
Overall, patellar tendonitis is an easily treatable condition that requires no in-depth medical attention. However, without assessing the damage and formulating a treatment plan, it is possible that the condition can grow into something more serious.