What is Tendinopathy?

Tendinopathy or tendon overuse has been a challenge to health care professionals dealing with athletes.  It is a common and often debilitating condition that can be difficult to treat. Tendinopathies usually occur as overuse injuries or where you have recently increased your activity levels. Sometimes, the tendon calcifies and becomes stiffer and more like bone.

Tendinopathy

Tendinopathy is a wide term which refers to painful conditions occurring in and around tendons caused by overuse. It can be described as tendon inflammation, known as tendinitis, or tiny tears in the connective tissue in or around the tendon, known as tendinosis.

Tendons are tough but flexible fibres that connect muscle to bone. A tendon serves to move the bone or structure. The basic elements of tendon are collagen bundles, cells, and ground substance or extracellular matrix.

Most experts use the term tendinopathy to include both inflammation and microtears. For many years, most tendon problems were called tendinitis. Many doctors still use this term to describe a tendon injury. Tendinopathies are primarily degenerative conditions, where there is usually an absence of inflammatory cells on or around the lesion.

Common tendon overuse conditions include Achilles tendon, patellar tendon, extensor carpi radialis brevis tendon or tennis elbow, and rotator cuff.

Causes

Tendon injuries are usually caused by gradual wear and tear to the tendon from repetitive use or aging. Anyone can get a tendon injury. But people who have jobs, sports activities, or daily activities that involve repetitive motions are at higher risk of damaging a tendon.

A tendon injury can occur suddenly or gradually. A person is more likely to sustain sudden injury if the tendon has been weakened over time.

Symptoms

Tendinopathy usually causes pain, stiffness, and loss of strength in the affected area. Symptoms include:

  • Worsening pain when using the tendon
  • More pain and stiffness during the night or when you get up in the morning
  • Tenderness, redness, warmth, or swelling if there is inflammation
  • Crunchy sound or feeling when using the tendon

Treatment

Treatment of tendinopathies should always start with conservative measures, including protection, rest, ice, compression, elevation, medications, and rehabilitative exercises. Doctors encourage their patients to reduce their level of physical activity to minimise repetitive loading on the tendon. Rehabilitative exercises involve stretching and strengthening program and should begin early.

Nonsurgical treatment of Tendinopathy includes the following:

  • Correction of biomechanical factors, kinetic chain deficits and training errors
  • Lifestyle modifications, stretching, strengthening, endurance and proprioceptive exercises
  • Bracing, physical modalities, and medications

How Physiotherapy Helps

Physiotherapy has been commonly used for the treatment of Tendinopathies. It is vital to speed up the healing process, ensure an optimal result, and reduce the possibility of recurrence.

Stretching and strengthening programs are a common component of therapy programs. It may also comprise other treatments such as soft tissue massage, electrotherapy, joint mobilization and ice/heat therapy.

Tendinopathy is a complex condition. It requires management based on individual case. Getting a professional opinion can prevent a Tendinopathy becoming persistent that affects your activities.

If you are affected with Tendinopathy, call us at (08) 9444 8729 today!