Knee pain with jumping is a common problem amongst active adults. The location of knee pain can vary. Sometimes the pain is at the patellar tendon (patellar tendonitis) or quad tendon (quad tendonitis). It could be on the outside of the knee along the IT band (IT Band syndrome). It may be from a meniscus injury across the joint line. It may even be on the inside of the knee and result in knee bursitis. Sometimes, the kneecap does not track properly and can cause patellofemoral syndrome.
To obtain an accurate diagnosis, an examination would be needed. Although there are differences in how you should treat each of these conditions, there are common principles that will help you jump without knee pain.
Some factors that contribute to knee pain with jumping include an abnormality in the way the lower leg lines up with the hip, knee, and foot and improper tracking of the kneecap. In many cases, pain with jumping is associated with poor mobility of the hips and the ankle. This can be combined with weakness of the hip, thigh, and buttock muscles. In addition, if you have imbalances at your core and hip muscles, you may have faulty knee mechanics when jumping. The best way to know what is contributing to your knee pain when jumping is to have a movement assessment performed.
Once you know what your specific limitations are, the first common-sense recommendation is to take a short break from jumping activity. This allows for irritation to settle down and healing to take place. If pain persists, receiving hands-on therapy can help alleviate pain more quickly. Once your pain subsides, you can address the root causes of why you're experiencing knee pain when jumping.
If you have weakness, learning how to activate muscles that are not firing well is key. In some cases, the hamstring, calf, and buttock muscles are not strong enough to assist with jumping. This results in over-activation of the quad muscles and excess pull on the knee cap. You may also have weakness in the quad muscles themselves. If your quads are weak and are being overused, your patellar tendon and quad tendon may become irritated and cause pain when jumping. Some of our go-to exercises during this phase include bridge variations, quad sets, and calf raises.
Once your muscles engage better, your next step is restoring movements. The basic function of the knee is to bend and straighten. In addition, if you're jumping, you need to be able to flex and your hips and ankles to absorb force. Some exercises that we use to restore movement in these areas include tall-kneel sitbacks, 90/90 get-up, and half-kneeling ankle dorsiflexion.
Most of the aforementioned exercises can be found in our video library.
After you have learned how to use your muscles and restored movement, you will need to reintroduce jumping. Proper technique for jumping includes loading the hip and thigh muscles and landing in a way that attenuates force. Once you've developed good jumping technique, you can progressively increase the height of the surface you're using to jump. Being able to effectively jump includes jumping onto a higher surface and jumping down to a lower surface. Plyoboxes are great for training jumps.
When addressed with a specialized physical therapy program, jumping without knee pain is possible. However, ignoring pain and pushing through workouts can result in a further decline of your knee health. If you're worried about your knee pain, the physical therapists at Movement Solutions would be glad to help you.
We invite you to request a knee consultation with one of our specialists. This is an opportunity to ask questions, obtain clarity about your knee pain, and foster confidence that we can help you. If you’re certain that we’re a good fit to work together, you can decide on the next step.
If you’re in knee pain but unsure about what you should do, call us at (864) 558-7346 and ask how we can help.