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Tendon Injuries / Tears

What are Tendon Injuries?

Tendons are powerful fibrous cords which connect muscle to bone and allow for movement. Tendon injuries can result from acute trauma when the tendon overstretches and resulting in either complete or partial tendon tears. You typically feel a snap or popping sensation when you rupture your tendon followed by a sharp pain which is likely to affect your mobility and muscle function. Surgery is often needed to repair the ruptured tendon.  

Tendon injuries can also occur chronically due to gradual wear and tear of the tendon from aging or overuse. People who perform repetitive actions as part of their jobs, sports, or activities of daily living are more prone to damaging a tendon. The overuse of the tendon leads to an inflammatory response in the tendon, or tendonitis.  Tendonitis can be associated with various degrees of pain and tendon dysfunction. With appropriate treatment tendonitis typically gradually resolves. However, chronic untreated or insufficiently treated tendonitis can lead to tendon degeneration over time with increased risk for tendon tearing.

What are the Symptoms of Tendon Injuries?

Some of the symptoms associated with tendon injuries are:

  • Tenderness or pain near or at a joint, particularly around a wrist, elbow, shoulder, or ankle
  • Thickening or swelling of the tendon near the joint
  • Stiffness which restricts the joint movement
  • Crepitus or a crunchy sound feeling on using the tendon

How are Tendon Injuries Diagnosed?

To diagnose a tendon injury, your doctor will review your symptoms and medical history, perform a physical examination, and order certain diagnostic tests.

Physical examination will typically include evaluation of passive and active range of motion along with resisted movements.

Diagnostic tests such as x-ray, ultrasound, or MRI may be suggested by your doctor if symptoms are severe and do not improve with treatment and to help determine tendon tears, thickening, swelling, as well as ligament, cartilage and muscle injury.

What are the Treatments Options Associated with Tendon Injuries?

Some of the common treatment options for tendon injuries include:

  • Rest and elevation of the affected tendon
  • Application of heat and ice
  • Use of a compression bandage on the affected area to reduce swelling
  • Use of medications such as pain relievers and anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Range of motion exercises to improve mobility and strengthen muscles
  • Assistive devices such as braces, splints, or cane
  • Corticosteroid injections
  • Physiotherapy
  • Surgery
  • Abstaining from tobacco as smoking delays tissue and wound healing

How can Tendon Injuries be Prevented?

Some of the steps you can follow to lower your chances of developing a tendon injury include:

  • Stretches and warm-ups before exercises
  • Keeping physically fit through regular exercise and building muscle tone
  • Avoiding overuse and repetitive motions
  • Sitting in a proper posture while working at a desk
  • Moving around periodically without remaining in the same position for long
  • Using proper equipment during sports activities and at work
  • American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
  • American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine
  • Arthroscopy Association of North America
  • International Cartilage Regeneration & Joint Preservation Society (ICRS)
  • American Academy of Regenerative Medicine