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What is Tendinopathy?

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Understanding Tendinopathy, Tendinitis, and Tendinosis

Navigating through terms like tendinopathy, tendinitis, and tendinosis can be confusing especially when tendinitis and tendinosis have alternative spellings of tendonitis and tendonosis. But understanding the nuances between them can be important, especially if you're grappling with these conditions. Let's explore these terms comprehensively to shed light on their differences and how to address them effectively.

What is Tendinopathy 

Tendinopathy is an umbrella term that encompasses various tendon issues, including tendinitis and tendinosis. Each condition has unique characteristics and underlying causes. Tendinopathy is the broad name for conditions involving tendons that cause pain and swelling.

Tendinopathy encompasses both tendinosis and tendonitis, each distinctively different. 

Understanding Tendonosis vs Tendonitis

Tendinitis:

Tendinitis involves the inflammation of a tendon, leading to pain and reduced function. This inflammation arises from excessive strain due to sudden movements, repetitive actions, or bearing too much weight.

Tendinosis:

Tendinosis is a chronic condition that occurs when tendon collagen breaks down due to overuse. While it may or may not involve pain, the surrounding area typically isn't swollen or warm.

Symptoms and Causes Of Tendinopathy

Symptoms of Tendinopathy: What to Look Out For

Tendinopathy encompasses a range of tendon issues, each with its own set of symptoms.

Here are the key signs to watch for:

  • Pain: Tendinopathy typically manifests as pain in the affected area. This pain may be dull or sharp and you can experience mild discomfort up to severe agony.
  • Swelling: In cases of tendinitis, where inflammation is present, swelling around the tendon may occur. This swelling can make the area feel tender to the touch.
  • Restricted Movement: Tendinopathy often leads to reduced range of motion in your affected joint or muscle. You may find it difficult to move the affected area as freely as before.
  • Stiffness: Tendinopathy can cause stiffness, especially upon waking in the morning or after priods of inactivity. The affected area may feel tight and difficult to move initially.
  • Warmth or Redness: In cases of acute tendinitis, the skin around the affected tendon may become warm, red, or inflamed. This is a sign of active inflammation.
  • Cracking or Popping Sensation: Some individuals with tendinopathy report hearing or feeling a cracking or popping sensation, especially during movement.
  • Weakness: Tendinopathy may weaken the affected tendon or muscle, leading to a sense of weakness or instability in the joint. You may notice difficulty in performing tasks that require strength or resistance.

It's important to note that symptoms may vary depending on the type and location of your issues. Additionally, not all cases of tendinopathy will exhibit all of these symptoms. If you are experiencing relentless or worsening pain, swelling, or restricted movement, it's advisable to seek medical attention for proper diagnosis and treatment. Early intervention can be instruental to help prevent complications and facilitate quicker recovery. 


An Example of Tendinopathy:

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Achilles tendinosis is a common condition in which the Achilles tendon in the back of your leg has degenerated, causing pain. Alternatively, Achilles tendonitis is when the Achilles tendon is inflamed and causes you pain.

Other common tendinopathies:

  • Rotator cuff tendinitis - inflammation of the tendons in your shoulder joint. Learn more about shoulder tendonitis.
  • Patellar tendinitis - inflammation of your patellar (kneecap) tendon.
  • Tennis elbow - pain from inflammation on the outside of your elbow.
  • Golfer's elbow - pain from inflammation on the inside of your elbow. Learn more about elbow tendonitis.

Causes of Tendinopathy: Understanding the Root of the Problem

Tendinopathy can develop from various factors, from overuse to underlying medical conditions. 

Here are the primary causes to be aware of:

Repetitive Stress

One of the most common causes of tendinopathy is repetitive stress or overuse of a tendon. Activities that involve repetitive motions, such as typing, painting, gardening, or sports like tennis or golf, can place excessive strain on tendons, leading to micro-injuries and eventual damage.

Sudden Impact or Force

Tendinopathy can also result from sudden, forceful impacts or movements that the tendon is not accustomed to. This can occur during activities like jumping, falling, or lifting heavy objects, causing acute injury to the tendon.

Age-related Changes

As we age, tendons become less elastic and more prone to injury. The natural aging process leads to changes in tendon structure and composition, making them more susceptible to degeneration and tendinopathy.

Poor Posture and Biomechanics

Incorrect posture or biomechanics during physical activities can place undue stress on tendons, increasing the risk of tendinopathy. This is particularly common in activities that involve repetitive movements or prolonged periods of strain.

Muscle Imbalance

Imbalances in muscle strength or flexibility can lead to altered mechanics and increased stress on certain tendons. Weak or tight muscles may not adequately support the tendon, making it more susceptible to injury.

Medical Conditions

Certain medical conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, or metabolic disorders, can predispose individuals to tendinopathy. These conditions can affect tendon health and increase the likelihood of developing tendon problems.

Medications and Treatments

Some medications, such as corticosteroids or fluoroquinolone antibiotics, have been associated with an increased risk of tendinopathy. Additionally, treatments like radiation therapy or certain surgical procedures may also contribute to tendon damage.

Poor Vascular Supply

Tendons have a relatively poor blood supply compared to muscles, which can slow down the healing process and make them more susceptible to injury, especially in areas with limited blood flow.

Understanding these causes can help individuals take preventive measures and make lifestyle adjustments to reduce the risk of developing tendinopathy. If you're experiencing tendinopathy symptoms, it's essential to seek medical evaluation and appropriate treatment to prevent further damage and promote recovery.

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At OIBO we have a team of specialists dedicated to helping you with your pain. Contact us to schedule an appointment; we can't wait to help you.

Tendinopathy Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnosing Tendinopathy

If you have persistent tendon pain that doesn't improve within a few days, you should visit an orthopaedic specialist. Diagnosis often involves reviewing medical history, performing a physical examination, discussing your pain, its location, severity, etc., and taking imaging tests like MRI or ultrasound to differentiate between tendinitis and tendinosis.

Treating Tendinopathy

Treating tendinitis will respond well to nonsurgical care, including: 

  • The traditional RICE protocol (rest, ice, compression, elevation)
  • NSAIDs 
  • Physical therapy 
  • Orthotics 
  • Deep tissue massage 
  • Corticosteroids 
  • Platelet-rich plasma therapy (for recurring cases)

Treating tendinosis focuses on:

  • Rest 
  • Taping or bracing
  • Cautious movement 
  • Eccentric strengthening
  • Ergonomics adjustments 
  • Massage 
  • Proper nutrition to support collagen production

Prevention of Tendinopathy

Reducing the risk of tendinopathy involves simple routine changes such as: 

  • Warming up before exercise
  • Wearing appropriate footwear
  • Taking regular breaks
  • Avoiding overexertion
  • Scheduling rest days
  • Learning new activities properly

The outlook for tendinopathy is generally favorable; most people recover with proper care, though tendinosis may require ongoing management. While your symptoms can be alleviated, issues can come back and vigilance is necessary to prevent recurrence.

If you're experiencing pain or swelling, it's essential to seek assistance from an orthopaedic specialist for proper management. If you're experiencing persistent tendon pain or discomfort, don't hesitate to consult with one of our specialists for personalized treatment and guidance. Contact us to schedule.

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Patients deserve personalized, outcome-driven care provided by physicians who genuinely care about them. As medicine has become more corporate and transactional, OrthoNJ prioritizes exceptional doctor/patient relationships. This is why we say we have The Power to Put Patients First.

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Patients deserve personalized, outcome-driven care provided by physicians who genuinely care about them. As medicine has become more corporate and transactional, OrthoNJ prioritizes exceptional doctor/patient relationships. This is why we say we have The Power to Put Patients First.

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We listen. We collaborate. We Serve.

Compassionate Orthopedic Care In New Jersey

Patients deserve personalized, outcome-driven care provided by physicians who genuinely care about them. As medicine has become more corporate and transactional, OrthoNJ prioritizes exceptional doctor/patient relationships. This is why we say we have The Power to Put Patients First.

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