Knee pain above the kneecap especially with volleyball and jumping

by Will


I am a 34 yr. old male that has been very active.

I am a martial artist and participate in other sports as well. I put myself through very physical routines. I have had achilles and biceps tendonitis before, but just recently I started having pain right above my kneecap near the very top outside edge on my left knee.

I had an x-ray which was negative.

I have not had an MRI, but have been going to physical therapy for 2 weeks. I can feel a little tightness after exercise right where the vastus lateralis tendon is I think. It was difficult for me to do deep lunges, single leg squat, and after heavy workouts I could even notice it walking down stairs. The exercise that I would get the most pain was playing volleyball.

It would be fine for a half hour or so then it would start hurting. It hurts on jumping; the takeoff hurt mildly, but on landing it would shoot a brief but painful sensation in that outer, upper knee area.

I have been resting it and it feels better doing most things, so I test it playing volleyball and it starts hurting again.

My physical therapist thought I might have an inflamed bursa, but other than that they haven't been able to tell me exactly what the problem is.

I know my knee also hasn't been tracking properly
when this conditon started. I would appreciate any input on what you might think the problem is.

Thank you,



Joshua Answers:

Hello Will. Thanks for all the details.

So....I have some more questions.

1. Does if feel like in the joint, our ouside the joint? Can you find it/press on it with your finger?

2. Describe the pain. Sharp, dull, broad, specific, etc. The more detail the better.

3. What exactly about lunges was difficult? Pain? Felt like it would hurt? Didn't want to let you stretch/go the distance?

4. X-ray wouldn't show anything tendon related except a giant tear. What exactly were they looking for?

5. Say more about the poor knee tracking thing.

6. Even if the PT can't identify the problom (really??), we should be able to narrow it down, and give you some things to help.

Joshua Tucker, B.A., C.M.T.
The Tendonitis Expert

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Nov 02, 2009
PART 2 - Knee pain above the kneecap especially with volleyball and jumping
by: William Kruger


It doesn't feel like the pain is in the joint.

The pain is just above and to the outside of my kneecap on my left knee, where my vastus lateralis muscle is.

The weird thing is I can't really feel any tenderness by pressing with my fingers.

I can feel tenderness and locate the spot after doing exercises that bring on the pain.

For the most part the pain is probably between dull and sharp for most activities that irritate it.

I get sharp pain when I do specific jumping plyometrics and volleyball. In volleyball when I do a 1 or 2 step approach jump off of both legs, I get a sharp pain on jumping and an even sharper pain on landing in my left leg.

Whenever I play I can play normally for about 15 minutes before it starts hurting, but the time has decreased every time.

At first doing anything that put most of my body weight on the left leg irritated it. For example, walking down stairs, kneeling down in squatting position and standing up, and lunges.

With the lunges I had no problem with the motion. I would get pain usually when my left leg was nearing the 90 degree angle and the quads were really working. It was more severe when my left leg was in the back, doing a right leg forward lunge. The stairs and lunges have gotten a lot better since going to physical therapy.

After I do an exercise that irritates that area I can sit down and pull my left leg to my chest and feel pain and a tight stretch in that vastus lateralis area.

The only reason they did an x-ray was to rule out any bone problems.

My physical therapist thinks that there is an imbalance in my knee area and my knee cap is being pulled to the outside. I do get a more popping feeling than normal.

Thank you for replying to my message,


Nov 06, 2009
PART 3 - Knee pain above the kneecap especially with volleyball and jumping
by: The Tendonitis Expert

Joshua Comments:

Hey Will. You're welcome.

So, here's what I think.

1. I agree that it's some sort of muscle imbalance kind of thing.

I can't help directly there, I'm more of a fix tendon damage/injury/pain kind of guy, though I'll say more about that below.

I suggest that you get the ebook from an Athletic Trainer I point people to. I really like his stuff.

The ebook specifically is about patellar tendonitis/pain and muscle imbalance that leads to it.

If muscles have non-optimal tones and lengths, then they work together wonky. That causes strain, pain signals, and a variety of other things that can hurt and disable you (in a sports sense).

I've seen it plenty of times, people with limiting pain, doctors have told them it's injury, they do some specific stretching and paying attention to the right things and PRESTO their pain is gone.

We can have pain, even severe pain, without any actual injury.

You may want to spend a little bit and get Barton's ebook about hip tightness and muscle balance and how it relates with patellar tendonitis.

You'll learn a lot.

You might not have patellar issues per se, but it's all related, and if the top of your kneecap where the vastus come in is hurting now......

So there's that.

2. As for the rest, it sounds like you are producing the pain enhancing chemicals when your structures get irritated when exercising, but you body is flushing it out really well.

That's good for now, but the tendency is for the pattern to get worse and worse, quickly or slowly, as it builds on itself.

My suspicion is that you don't have any actual damage.

So you probably don't have Tendonitis per see, but you absolutely do have a growing Tendonitis -dynamic-, well described on the Pain Causing Dynamic page.

Too tight muscles fire, send off danger signals, the nervous system clamps down and floods you with chemical that sets your neuro-recptors on edge. Thus, pain, and a Downward Spiral into pain and tightness.

My general suggestion is to:

1. Stretch. Lightly, often, and throughout the day. Every time you are watching tv, you should be stretching something.

2. Ice Massage. Specifically, get a frozen water bottle big or small, and start rolling you vastus muscles, so you're getting the benefits of massage as well as the Process of Inflammation reducing effects of cold.

3. More protein couldn't hurt. More magnesium couldn't hurt. Drinking more water couldn't hurt.

Yes? Makes sense?

More questions, more answers.

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