A guide to preventing, recognizing, and treating tendon injuries
If I asked you what you do to maintain a healthy body, how would you answer? You might say weight lifting, cardio, or stretching. Cardio and weight lifting are great ways to help build strong, lean, athletic bodies. Stretching helps to improve flexibility and muscle tone. All these exercises are great for maintaining a healthy body.
How would you answer if I asked what you do to build and maintain healthy tendons? Most people do not think about tendon strength as a reason to workout. But, the strength and mobility of your tendons have a direct impact on your muscle strength, mobility, and overall health.
Tendons are made up of tough yet flexible fibrous bands. Tendons attach muscles to the bone. Providing stability and movement in various parts of the body. The 4,000 tendons in your body make it possible for you to clench your fist, throw a ball, or squat to pick up a heavy item. With so many tendons doing work for your body, it is as important to maintain your tendon health.
Tendon injuries are common. Mostly caused by overuse. Tendon injuries can also be effectively treated when caught early. Learn more about how to maintain your tendon health, recognize signs of injury, and how tendon injuries are treated.
Maintaining Healthy Tendons
The good news about tendon health is that you may already be doing many of the things necessary to build and maintain healthy tendons. The fuel you provide your body and your exercise routine can help to maintain your tendon health.
Nutrition for Tendon Health
What you eat and drink impacts how you feel and how your body performs. Your diet plays an important role in maintaining healthy tendons. Healthy tendons are made mostly of collagen. A diet that supports collagen production will help to maintain tendon elasticity and build strength.
To help maintain the health of your tendons consider the following nutrients:
- Protein – Adequate protein helps the body to maintain elasticity and produce collagen. Protein found in lean poultry, eggs, fish, beans, lentils, and in some dairy products like Greek yogurt is ideal for tendon health.
- Vitamin C – Vitamin C plays an important role in new collagen development. Vitamin C is found in many fruits and vegetables including strawberries, red peppers, oranges, broccoli, and tomatoes.
- Vitamin A – Vitamin A supports collagen renewal, tissue repair, and cell division. Vitamin A also supports the elasticity of collagen, helping to maintain tendon strength.
Supplementing your normal dietary intake may be necessary to support your tendon health. You can get many of the key nutrients needed in a healthy diet; however, supplementing the following items can be beneficial.
- Collagen – Tendons are mostly made up of collagen. Collagen powders or supplements can help to boost your body’s natural collagen development.
- Calcium – Tendons contain only small amounts of calcium. Yet, it helps to build strong bones. Preventing bone injuries can help to prevent tendon injuries as well.
- Vitamin D – Vitamin D helps the body to absorb key nutrients, like calcium. The body’s ability to absorb nutrients that keep the tendon and bones healthy is critical to maintaining your tendon health.
Exercise for Tendon Health
You’re well on your way to building healthy tendons if you incorporate resistance and stretching into your workouts. Unlike muscle, tendons take longer to strengthen. Research has indicated that tendons may take two to three months longer to respond to exercise than muscle.
Consider these areas of training to help build and maintain healthy tendons:
Weight training is a critical component to building strong, healthy tendons. Try incorporating resistance training or increasing your weight training. Resistance training can include: dumbbells, barbells, body weight exercises or resistance bands. Even low weight resistance training can help to thicken the fibers within the tendon making them more dense.
Lengthening the tendon helps to maintain a full range of motion. Try incorporating calf stretches or pectoral stretches to target the Achilles tendon and shoulder tendons.
Plyometrics and Isometric Training
Plyometric and isometric training focuses on improving how quickly the tendon returns to its original state. An example of this may be your ability to jump and return to standing quickly. Plyometric exercises, such as squats or drop jumps, and isometric exercises, such as weighted calf raises, help to improve the tendon’s recoil response. Not sure how to add plyometric and isometric exercises to your routine? Take advantage of our direct access physical therapy appointments to get personalized medical advice.
Common Tendon Injuries
Tendonitis is an overuse injury causing inflammation in the tendon. The symptoms of tendonitis typically present at or around the injury site and typically include:
- A dull aching pain that can worsen with movement of the impacted tendon or joint.
- Tenderness or swelling around the impacted tendon.
- A rubbing or grating sensation when the tendon moves.
Like tendonitis, tendinopathy is a relatively common overuse injury. But, tendinopathy refers to the chronic breakdown of collagen in the tendon. Tendinopathy has many of the same symptoms of tendonitis, but inflammation is less common in tendinopathy.
When to seek treatment for a tendon injury
Many cases of tendonitis respond well to at-home care including ice and rest. However, if the symptoms persist or become worse after a few days or weeks consider a visit to your physician or physical therapist. Tendonitis can also be treated through a direct access physical therapy appointment. Learn more (NOTE: INSERT LINK TO SERVICES PAGE) about the Optimal Sports Physical Therapy services for treating tendon injuries.
Improving Tendon Health
At Optimal Sports Physical Therapy we focus on helping patients build tendon strength, increase range of motion, and prevent or recover from tendon injuries. Together, we focus on building tendon strength and promoting tendon healing through exercise.
Don’t wait until you have a tendon related injury to seek physical therapy services. Physical therapy and at-home care can help improve not only your tendon strength but your overall strength and mobility.
Focusing on the health of your tendons can help you avoid injury, but it can also make you stronger! Healthy tendons and muscles together can make you more powerful and more resilient.
Don’t let a tendon injury stop you! Contact us today to learn more about how Optimal Sports Physical Therapy can help you lead a stronger, more active life! Call us today at 406-502-1782 to learn more about our services.