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Tendinopathy

(Tendonitis; Tendinosis)

Definition

Tendons connect muscle to bone and help move joints. Tendinopathy is an injury to the tendon. The injuries can include:

  • Tendonitis—An inflammation of the tendon.
  • Tendinosis—Microtears in the tendon tissue with no significant inflammation

Tendonitis
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Causes

Tendinopathy is caused by overuse. This causes tiny tears that build up over time.

Risk Factors

This problem is more common in women than in men. It is also more common in older adults. Other things that may raise the risk are:

  • Doing any activity too much, such as:
    • Sports
    • Physical labor
    • Housework
  • Physical problems, such as:
    • Muscle imbalances
    • Poor flexibility
    • Being overweight
    • Alignment problems in the leg(s)

Symptoms

Problems may be:

  • Pain in the tendon or the area around it, often with activity
  • Poor motion of related joints
  • Swelling
  • Weakness

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done. The doctor may suspect tendinopathy based on symptoms. Images are rarely needed. They may be done if the doctor suspects problems with the bone.

Treatment

Treatment depends on the tendon and how badly it is damaged. Basic care will include:

  • Rest for the joint. This does not mean full rest but avoiding movement that causes strain to the area.
  • Ice
  • Cast, splint, or brace to support the tendon
  • Medicines to ease pain and swelling

Physical therapy may be needed if the problems keeps returning.

Prevention

To lower the risk of this problem:

  • Slowly increase activities
  • Stretch and strengthen the muscles that attach to a tendon
RESOURCES:

American College of Sports Medicine
http://acsm.org

FamilyDoctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
http://familydoctor.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Orthopaedic Association
http://www.coa-aco.org

Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
http://www.canorth.org

REFERENCES:

Derry S, Moore RA, et al. Topical NSAIDs for acute musculoskeletal pain in adults. Cochrane Database of Syst Rev. 2015;(6): CD007402.

Exercise-induced leg pain. American College of Sports Medicine website. Available at: http://www.acsm.org/docs/default-source/files-for-resource-library/basics_exercise-induced-leg-pain.pdf?sfvrsn=8c62186b_2. Published 2016. Accessed July 28, 2020.

Patellar tendinopathy. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:https://www.dynamed.com/condition/patellar-tendinopathy. Updated May 16, 2019. Accessed July 28, 2020.

Patellar tendon tear. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00512. Updated February 2016. Accessed July 28, 2020.

Schwartz A, Watson JN, et al. Patellar Tendinopathy. Sports Health. 2015 Sep;7(5):415-420.

Last reviewed March 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Laura Lei-Rivera, PT, DPT  Last Updated: 3/9/2021