What are Tendonitis and Tendinopathy?
You may have heard the terms tendonitis and tendinopathy used interchangeably. They are different conditions even though they share many of the same symptoms. Both tendonitis and tendinopathy affect your tendons. Tendons are thick fibrous bands that attach muscles to bone.
Tendonitis is the inflammation or irritation of the tendon. Tendonitis can cause pain around a joint and can affect any tendon in the body. It most commonly impacts your shoulders, elbows, wrists, knees, and heels.
Tendinopathy is the breakdown of the collagen protein found in tendons. Tendinopathy can cause pain around a joint along with reduced flexibility and range of motion. Tendinopathy can also affect any tendon in the body, but it is most common in the Achilles tendon, Patellar tendon, rotator cuff tendons, and hamstring tendons.
What are the symptoms of tendonitis?
Tendonitis is a relatively common overuse injury. It can occur at any age, but active adults are more susceptible. Older adults may have a slightly increased risk for tendonitis because the tendons naturally lose elasticity and strength with age.
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.
Symptoms of tendonitis range from mild to intense and last anywhere from a few days or weeks to several months.
When should I see a doctor for tendonitis?
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 about the Optimal Sports Direct Access services.
How is tendonitis treated?
When treating tendonitis the goal is to reduce inflammation and relieve pain. Most cases of tendonitis can be treated at home using rest, ice, and over the counter anti-inflammatory medications.
Because tendonitis is commonly caused by overuse or repetitive use of the affected joint, rest can be critical to healing. For some more advanced cases of tendonitis corticosteroid injections may be used. Physical therapy may also be recommended.
Physical therapy for the treatment of tendonitis.
For patients struggling with ongoing tendonitis symptoms, physical therapy can help. A physical therapist will develop a patient-specific rehabilitation program focused on regaining strength, mobility, and function in the affected joint.
How long does it take to recover from tendonitis?
Recovery from tendonitis will vary based upon the affected joint and the severity of the symptoms. Some patients may see improvement in a few weeks. Others may take months to return to normal function.
What are the symptoms of tendinopathy?
Similar to tendonitis, tendinopathy is a relatively common overuse injury. It can also occur at any age, but active adults who have chronic overuse of a tendon are more susceptible. Research has indicated that tendinopathy may in fact be more prevalent than tendonitis. Tendinopathy has many of the same symptoms of tendonitis, but inflammation is less common in tendinopathy.
The symptoms of tendinopathy 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. Especially aggravated with repeated use of the tendon.
- Tenderness around the impacted tendon.
- A rubbing or grating sensation when the tendon moves.
Symptoms of tendinopathy range from mild to intense and last anywhere from a few days or weeks to several months.
When should I see a doctor for tendinopathy?
Many cases of tendinopathy 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. Tendinopathy can also be treated through a direct access physical therapy appointment. Learn more about the Optimal Sports Direct Access services.
How is tendinopathy treated?
Treatment for tendinopathy typically begins with at-home treatment options following the RICE method:
Rest – Staying off or limiting the use of the impacted joint as much as possible.
Ice – Applying ice packs wrapped in a towel for 20 minutes up to eight times per day.
Compression – Wrap the area in an elastic bandage to provide extra support.
Elevation – Prop up the affected area to help reduce any swelling.
It is typically recommended to avoid taking over the counter anti-inflammatory medications or using corticosteroid injections for tendinopathy. These medications help manage inflammation which is less common in tendinopathy. Anti-inflammatory medications can also negatively impact the body’s natural collagen development.
Most cases of tendinopathy can be successfully treated using a combination of at-home treatments and physical therapy. In some more advanced cases, surgery may be required.
Physical therapy for the treatment of tendinopathy
Physical therapy for tendinopathy patients focuses on rebuilding tendon strength and promoting tendon healing through exercise. Depending on the location and severity of the tendinopathy, a physical therapist can use a number of different treatment options.
Two common physical therapy treatment options for tendinopathy include:
- Stretching and Strengthening – Using eccentric exercises to strengthen the impacted area allowing the muscles to lengthen while they contract, rather than shorten.
- Deep Friction Massage – A deep tissue massage to the impacted tendon bringing additional blow flow to the area. Naturally promoting collagen development and tendon healing.
Physical therapy and at-home care can help to increase the strength of the tendon, stopping the cycle of injury. Engagement from a physical therapist can significantly decrease a patient’s pain, increase range of motion, and help to return a patient to normal daily activities.
How long does it take to recover from tendinopathy?
Depending on the severity and duration of the injury, recovery for tendinopathy can range from a few weeks to several months. Because tendinopathy is caused from a breakdown in collagen within the tendon, the patient may be more prone to future injury. Ongoing exercises, stretches, and massage may help to prevent re-injury.
Optimal Sports Physical Therapy treats both tendonitis and tendinopathy through our direct access physical therapy services. Start with us and get on the road to recovery.