Definition

Tendons connect muscle to bone and help move joints. Tendonopathy is an injury to the tendon. These injuries tend to occur in tendons near joints such as the knee, shoulder, and ankle. The injuries can include:

    
  • Tendonitis—An inflammation of the tendon. Although this term is used often, most cases of tendonopathy are not associated with significant inflammation.
  • Tendonosis—Microtears in the tendon tissue with no significant inflammation
  • The following tendons are often involved:

        
  • Achilles tendon —back of heel
  • Patellar tendon , which is attached to the kneecap
  • Rotator cuff in the shoulder
  • Biceps in the shoulder
  • Wrist extensors near the elbow, on the outside
  • Wrist flexors near the elbow, on the inside
  • Quadriceps tendons
  • Ankle tendons
  • Tendonitis

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    Causes

    Tendinopathy is caused by overuse of a muscle-tendon unit. The strain on the tendon causes tiny tears that build up over time. There can also be inflammation.

    These tears cause pain and can eventually change the structure of the tendon.

    Risk Factors

    Tendinopathy is more common in women than in men. It is also more common in older adults. Factors that may increase your chance of getting tendinopathy include:

        
  • Overuse can be the result of doing any activity too much
  • Strenuous or repetitive activities:     
  • Sports
  • Physical labor
  • Housework
  • Physical problems     
  • Muscle imbalance
  • Decreased flexibility
  • Overweight
  • Alignment abnormalities of the leg
  • Symptoms

    Symptoms may include:

        
  • Pain in the tenon or surrounding area, particularly with activity
  • Decreased motion of related joints
  • Local swelling
  • Weakness
  • Diagnosis

    You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.

    Images may be taken of the tendon and bone. This can be done with:

        
  • X-ray
  • MRI scan
  • Ultrasound
  • Treatment

    Treatment depends on:

        
  • Severity of symptoms
  • The tendon involved
  • Length of time symptoms have lasted
  • Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Options may include:

    Supportive Care

    The tendon will need time to heal. Supportive care may include:

        
  • Restricting activities. Normal activities will be reintroduced gradually.
  • Ice therapy to help relieve swelling
  • A cast, splint, or counterforce brace to support the tendon
  • Shoe inserts or orthotics
  • Prescription or over-the-counter medication may be advised to reduce pain. Cortisone injections may be used if other treatments do not alleviate pain.

    Physical Therapy

    A physical therapist will assess the tendon. An exercise program will be created to help recovery and to strengthen the muscles.

    Prevention

    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.