Tendons connect muscle to bone and help move joints. Tendinopathy is an injury to the tendon. These injuries tend to occur in tendons near joints such as knee, shoulder, and ankle. The injuries can include:
- Tendinitis—an inflammation of the tendon. (Although this term is used often, most cases of tendinopathy are not associated with significant inflammation.)
- Tendinosis—microtears (tiny breaks) in the tendon tissue with no significant inflammation.
The following tendons are often involved:
Tendinopathy is caused by overuse of a muscle-tendon unit. The strain on the tendon causes very tiny tears that accumulate over time. These tears cause pain and can eventually change the structure of the tendon.
Overuse can be the result of doing any activity too much, such as:
- Sport activities
- Physical labor—especially those with repetitive motions
Factors that increase your chance of tendinopathy include:
- Muscle imbalance
- Decreased flexibility
- Advancing age
- Sex: female
- Alignment abnormalities of the leg
- Pain, particularly with activity
- Decreased motion of related joints
- Local swelling
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Your doctor will ask about your activity and the location of the pain.
In the majority of cases your doctor will make a diagnosis based on the exam and history. If your symptoms are severe your doctor may order:
Treatment depends on:
- Severity of symptoms
- The tendon involved
- Length of time symptoms have lasted
Treatment may include:
- Avoiding the activity that is responsible
- Reduce shock vibration on the joint
- Rest for the affected tendon
- Ice after activity
- Cast or splint for immobilization of the affected area
- Counterforce brace over the painful tendon
- Shoe orthotics for foot alignment problems
- Gentle stretching of the tendon
- Strengthening of the involved muscle
If inflammation (tendinitis) is suspected, your doctor may recommend:
- Anti-inflammatory medications
- Cortisone injection into the sheath of the tendon
To prevent tendinopathy:
- Gradually work yourself into shape for a new activity.
- Gradually increase the length of time and intensity of activities.
- If you have a tendon that has been a problem, gradually stretch out that muscle/tendon unit.
- Strengthen the muscle to which the tendon is attached.
- If you have pain, do not ignore it. Early treatment can prevent the problem from becoming serious.
- Learn to back off from activities if you are tired or not used to the activity.
- Warm-up the affected area before activity.
American Academy of Family Physicians
American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine website. Available at: http://www.sportsmed.org/tabs/Index.aspx .
Patellar tendinopathy. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php . Updated June 2008. Accessed May 11, 2009.
Human Tendons . Human Kinetics; 1997.
Last reviewed January 2010 by
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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