During the last month, I have treated several truck drivers for knee injuries in my clinic.
At first glance, truck driving may not seem like a profession that would be prone to knee injuries. However, due to the physical demands of the job, many drivers develop painful and sometimes debilitating knee conditions.
A common knee injury sustained by drivers is called patellar tendonitis, which is better known as jumper’s knee. This is a condition that affects the tendon that connects your knee cap to your shin bone. The patella tendon functions to help your muscles straighten your knee during physical activities such as jumping or kicking a soccer ball. As you can imagine, this tendon is very strong and is able to withstand a significant amount of force.
Patellar tendonitis is generally caused by repeated stress or strain on the tendon. Eventually this stress leads to micro-tears in the tendon itself. As more tears occur, inflammation and pain in the tendon will start to appear. For truck drivers, the most common causes of this injury are climbing in and out of trucks, jumping off trailers, and long hours operating the clutch and throttle pedals.
The first symptom of patellar tendonitis is usually pain just under the knee cap. Initially, the pain will only be present during physical activity. The pain is usually sharp in nature but disappears once the activity is stopped. As the condition worsens, the pain may become constant and more severe.
In most cases, the diagnosis of patellar tendonitis is determined based on the patient’s signs and symptoms as well as a physical exam. However, if it is still unclear, diagnostic testing such as X-rays, ultrasound and MRI may be necessary. It is important for your doctor to rule out other, more serious knee conditions.
Once a diagnosis of patellar tendonitis is reached, your doctor will discuss possible treatment options. The good news is that most people respond favorably to conservative treatment and surgery is not usually required. The first mode of treatment is to rest and reduce the amount of strain on the knee.
Next, ice and anti-inflammatory medications are used to reduce the swelling in the tendon. Massage and gentle stretching are also effective to reduce the pain and irritation. Finally, in the latter stages of treatment, your doctor may recommend strengthening exercises and body mechanic modification, which an ergonomist, physical therapist or chiropractor can help you with. If all else fails and no significant improvement is observed after 10 to 12 months of conservative treatment, surgery may be considered. The goal of surgery is to repair any tears or remove severely damaged sections of the tendon.
Although you can not completely prevent this condition, you can reduce your risk of developing it. For starters, avoid activities that may put excess strain on the patellar tendon such as jumping off your trailer. In addition, try to use proper mechanics when getting in and out of your cab. Lastly, try to maintain a healthy body weight and perform lower body stretches regularly.
Until next time, drive safely!
Dr. Christopher H. Singh runs Trans Canada Chiropractic at the 230 Truck Stop in Woodstock, Ont. He can be reached at 519-421-2024.