All parts of the body are important, but your lower limbs play a significant role in performing all types of motion. Without them, walking, jumping, and dancing would be impossible. Located on the legs are the quadriceps. Quadriceps are a series of muscles found in the front of the upper leg. There are four muscles found within the quadriceps. They are the rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, and vastus intermedius. Alongside the quadricep muscles are the quadriceps tendons. These tendons are made of thick fibrous tissue. Together, the muscles and tendons play a huge part in helping the knees stay strong. Having strong quadriceps will help strengthen the knee joints and prevent many types of injuries from occurring. When the joints around the knees are stable, there are fewer chances of knee pain from occurring. Complete knee extension is important for optimal movement. One condition that can make this difficult is quadriceps tendonitis.

What is Quadriceps Tendonitis?

When the quadriceps are overused, tendonitis can develop. Tendonitis occurs when the tendon becomes inflamed and irritated. The inflammation is typically caused by prolonged repetitive movements. But it can also be caused by sudden trauma and improper alignment in knees. Quadriceps tendonitis is the condition in which the tendons and muscles located in the quadriceps are inflamed. 

How Does Quadriceps Tendonitis Develop? 

There are several causes of inflammation in the quadriceps area. Playing certain sports, like basketball, soccer, and volleyball, can contribute to injury to the quadriceps. When an individual is constantly making fast jumps and stops, turning and twisting too quickly, and performing intermittent bursts of running, it can put a strain on the tendons. Other causes of quadriceps tendonitis are incorrect footwear, inadequate flexibility, and poor alignment in the foot, ankle, or leg. Wearing the appropriate type of shoes for certain types of activities is important. If the wrong shoes are worn, it can cause unnecessary stress to your joints and tendons. Also, if the bottom of your shoes is worn out, it is highly recommended that you get a new pair to prevent any potential injuries to your lower limbs. Having poor flexibility can weaken the strength of the quadriceps and the areas surrounding the quadriceps as well. In addition, when other parts of the lower extremities (such as the ankle, knee, and foot) are not aligned properly it can lead to chronic pain and damage to your quads. 

Anyone can develop quadriceps tendonitis, but some individuals are particularly susceptible to it. People who are more likely to develop quadriceps tendonitits are obese individuals, athletes, diabetics, and those who suffer from an illness, such as gout, rheumatoid arthritis, leukemia, long term renal failure, and lupus. Obesity is a medical condition in which an individual is severely overweight. Obesity is triggered by poor dietary choices. Extra pounds can put added tension on the rest of the body. If an individual is at the ideal weight for their height, the body does not have to overcompensate. Being at a healthy weight means that the tendons are less likely to be injured. Athletes are prone to quadriceps tendonitis due to their active lifestyle. Often times, athletes have strenuous and intense workouts and this adds strain to their quadriceps. Diabetes occurs when a person has high blood sugar levels and is unable to produce the right amount of insulin to convert it properly. It is believed that those with diabetes are more likely to develop quadricep tendonitis because blood flow is limited and there isn’t enough to sustain the area consistently. Gout is a kind of arthritis that is exacerbated when there is too much uric acid in the blood. If left untreated, the uric acid can damage the joints and tendons over time causing discomfort. Rheumatoid arthritis is similar to gout. It is an autoimmune disorder in which the body’s immune system turns on itself and damages the barrier of various joints located throughout the body. Leukemia is a form of cancer that affects the blood-creating tissues in the body. Leukemia typically affects the white blood cells and as a result, the body is unable to fight off infections. Those with leukemia tend to experience bone and joint pain (which is due to the cancer cells spreading throughout the body). Long term renal failure occurs when the patient loses function of their kidneys and eventually it is rendered useless and unable to filter out wastes and other fluids on its own. One of the symptoms of long term renal failure is chronic inflammation throughout the body. The inflammation affects joints and tendons causing pain in different parts of the body, like the quadriceps. Lupus is another autoimmune disease that occurs when the body’s defenses think that healthy tissues are a threat and as a result, they are attacked. This causes swelling and pain in the joints and skin. 

What are the Symptoms of Quadriceps Tendonitis?

There are several signs that might indicate you have quadriceps tendonitis. Pain and discomfort are felt around the bottom of the thigh, just above the kneecap (also known as the patella). The pain will be noticeable when the knee is maneuvered. The more it is moved, the higher the chances that the tendons around the area become irritated and swollen. Visible swelling around the site of injury may be seen. The skin might feel hot and sensitive to the touch. If you get up from bed each morning and feel stiffness around the lower thighs and patella, you may have quadriceps tendonitis. Severe cases of this type of inflammation can also stop an athlete from working out or participating in their sport because the pain is too intense to bear.

Other Types of Quadriceps Injuries

Quadriceps tendonitis is not to be mistaken for other quadriceps-related injuries, like contusions, sprains, tears, ruptures, and compartment syndrome. A contusion is a direct hit to the area that results in bruising. Bruises are usually purple, black, or red. The bruised area will feel tender to the touch. Sprains occur when the ligaments of a joint are torn or overstretched. Tears occur when tendons attached near the quads are ripped. There are two types of tears: partial and complete. A rupture is a serious type of tear that can affect a person’s ability to walk. A complete and total rupture will result in the individual not being able to straighten out the knee. Compartment syndrome is an uncommon disorder that is quite painful. It is a muscle and nerve-related condition. Pressure accumulates in the muscles and restricts blood flow to the area. Consequently, essential nutrients and oxygen are cut off and the affected muscles and nerves are damaged. There are two types of compartment syndrome: acute and chronic. Acute compartment syndrome is caused by a major injury, like a broken bone. Chronic compartment syndrome is caused by exercise. 

Who Treats Quadriceps Tendonitis?

If the symptoms persist, visiting a qualified health professional for treatment options is highly recommended. A physician will perform a full physical exam and diagnose the condition according to the state of the injury. The range of motion and joint flexibility and strength will be assessed by the doctor or specialist. Sometimes the doctor may also order an MRI or X-ray for the injured site for a more comprehensive look. X-Rays are utilized to rule out a fracture or breakage as the culprit. MRI scans will reveal to the doctor whether the soft tissue structures around the injured area are damaged. MRI scans will show if the patient has a partial or total tear in their quadriceps. 

Treatment Options 

Non-surgical treatment solutions that are effective include the use of medication to alleviate symptoms and encourage the growth of healthy tissue cells. Medications, such as ibuprofen and naproxen sodium, can help reduce swelling and reception of pain. Ibuprofen and naproxen sodium are OTC NSAIDs. They are easily available at drugstores and supermarkets. They are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. This means that they help repress flare-ups and lessen the pain. They come in pill form and as a topical cream too. 

Another non-surgical method of treating quadriceps tendonitis is physical therapy. Physical therapy is a rehabilitation process that helps the patient overcome movement issues. A physical therapist (PT) uses several different techniques to help a patient improve their range of motion. Based on a patient’s history and the severity of the injuries, the PT creates a customized management plan for the patient to follow. The management plan will typically include certain exercises that enhance the alignment, flexibility, and strength of the affected joints. Different types of dynamic and static stretches will be introduced and performing them on a consistent basis is important to the patient’s recovery. Dynamic stretching is a movement that involves a person utilizing their full range of motion for a limited amount of time to warm up their muscles before engaging in a more strenuous physical activity. Examples of dynamic stretching are jogging, side steps and shuffles. Other effective dynamic stretching exercises include lying leg curls and leg swings. Static stretches are the opposite of dynamic stretches. Static stretches are usually done after a workout. They are elongated movements of wide range held in a fixed position for a longer period of time (10 seconds or more.) The stretches should be comfortable while demanding. These kinds of stretches aim to improve flexibility and blood circulation. Areas of focus include the lower back, quadriceps, calves, and hamstrings. A physical therapist may also use massage techniques, electrical stimulation, and ultrasounds to help in the patient’s recovery process. 

There are also ways for you to alleviate quadricep tendonitis on your own. Remember to gradually ease your way back into your normal physical activities to prevent recurrent tendonitis. Trying to do too much too fast will cause reinjury to the damaged tendon. Altering activity modifications would make a big impact on recovery time. Since the injury is most likely caused by overuse, refraining from any type of physical exertion is recommended. When you give your injured tendons a chance to rest, you decrease the feelings of pain and swelling caused by inflammation. Wearing a brace or sleeve geared specifically for quadriceps tendonitis is helpful as well. This type of compression support works to provide extra cushion and stability to the injured area; thus, resulting in faster recovery times. Kinesio taping is another popular technique that is used. It involves the use of special tape called kinesiology tape. One side of this elastic tape is made of cotton and on the backside, it is made of an acrylic adhesive. The injured area of the body is taped in a way that promotes natural healing. This type of tape also gives the muscles, tendons, and joints more stability and support. It prevents future injuries from occurring or current ones from worsening. Kinesio taping is often used by athletes and can be effectively applied in many different ways. It is an easy and affordable method to help treat quadricep tendonitis. The RICE method is also useful in treating tendonitis discomfort. RICE stands for rest, ice, compress, and elevate. These are the four steps of the RICE procedure that need to be followed in order to treat quadriceps tendonitis. Resting the injured tendon is very important. Try to rest the injured tendon for 2-4 weeks or until the symptoms are no longer experienced. Applying ice packs on the injury is necessary too. Compressing the inflammation with a bandage helps to lessen swelling and discomfort. Lastly, keeping the affected joint or limb elevated is crucial to the healing process. 

Get In Touch with Us for More Information

Quadriceps tendonitis can put a real crimp in your routine. Kick your pain to the curb by reaching out and making an appointment with Plymouth Bay Orthopedic Associates. At our convenient locations in Plymouth, Duxbury and Sandwich, our caring and dedicated team of professionals will be pleased to explain your options in greater detail and answer any questions you may have. Contact us today to set up your consultation – we look forward to speaking with you!