What can you do about painful tendons?

What can you do about painful tendons?

Tendinitis, tendinosis, and tendinopathy are all words you may have heard that describe painful tendons. Here are some handy tips for making sure you’re doing the right thing by your tendons.

What is tendinopathy?

There are heaps of tendons throughout your body, they are the thick ropey end of a muscle that attaches to bone. Researchers have found that problem tendons are a result of a breakdown in the tissue that makes up a tendon. This means that anti-inflammatories may only be useful in the early stage but exercising the tendon in the correct way is incredibly useful. Some examples of such injuries include Achilles tendons in runners, Patella (knee) tendons for jumping sports, and elbow tendons for office workers usually called tennis elbow.

What causes it?

We don’t fully understand how tendons work but one theory is that there’s a spectrum of the disease. At one end of the spectrum you have athletes who overtrain and injure their tendons. On the other end of the spectrum you have typically older people who injure their tendons but not usually from over exercising. The causes of the second group are more complex but are usually related to other general health factors like increased weight, hormonal changes, or having Diabetes all of which can increase their risk of injury.

We also now understand pain quite differently than we used to and there’s good evidence to suggest the more you fear movement in a painful area, the worse the pain becomes.

What can I do about it?

It’s not good enough to just read this blog or google some treatment, you need to see a physio or a sports doctor to make sure it’s diagnosed correctly so you’re sent down the right treatment path. It’s not the type of injury that will sort itself out, you need to do something about it.

If the tendon is injured from overtraining then the solution is to reduce the offending activity and gradually build back up. If it’s more from general health factors the solution is to put some load through the tendon as well as addressing those factors. Either way the tendon needs to work hard at some point of recovery!

A physio can help you find the right type of exercise to rehab your tendon. Typically starting with slower heavier exercises including weights work very nicely without provoking the tendon. They can take several months or years to rehab so you need regular and specific exercise, gradually progressing to heavier faster movements.

If you are keen to learn more, we can recommend this high-quality blog on tendons by a fellow physio: www.tendinopathyrehab.com.

Think you might have an issues with a tendon? As we mentioned earlier, it is imperitive that get it assessed correctly so appropriate management can be put in place. You can book a physio appointment for your assessment online HERE.

Jonathan GraceJonathan Grace is a physiotherapist at Leading Edge Physical Therapy in Rose Park, South Australia. He is currently undertaking his Masters degree in Sports and Exercise Physiotherapy.

References

Cook JL, Purdam CR, The challenge of managing tendinopathy in competing athletes, British Journal of Sports Medicine, 2014;48:506-509.
Cook J, Purdam CR, Is compressive load a factor in the development of tendinopathy?, British Journal of Sports Medicine, 2012;46:163-168.
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