Tendinitis and tendinopathy

Tendonitis and tendinopathy are not the same. Knowing the differences will determine your treatment.

Get Medication Information / Hilary Ellison


The tough, flexible bands of fibrous tissue throughout the body that attach muscles to bones are tendons. In sports, they can easily become irritated or inflamed by the stress of repetitive movements or acute injuries, such as a missed step or bumps from falls and collisions.

What is tendinitis?

Tendonitis, also called tendonitis, refers to inflammation of the tendons due to irritation and inflammation. The suffix -it means inflammation. Tendonitis can cause deep pulling pain that limits easy and comfortable movements.

The most common cause of tendonitis in athletes is an acute injury that causes the tendon to stretch out of its normal range of motion and causes pain, swelling, and inflammation.

What is tendinopathy?

Doctors use the term tendinopathy to describe many tendon injuries, such as tennis elbow, golfer's elbow, Achilles tendon injuries, etc. Experts now recognize that typical tendon injuries are more likely to occur due to prolonged overuse that worsens the condition of the tendons without any concomitant. inflammation.

The difference between the two

The distinction between the two is important because inflammation of tendonitis is treated differently than worsening tendinopathy (tendinosis). The inflammation of acute tendonitis often responds quickly with anti-inflammatory medications and treatments. However, if the injury is caused by degeneration of tendon tissue, treatment can be quite lengthy and will focus on improving tendon strength and repairing the tissue.

Common causes

Sometimes tendinitis or tendinopathy can develop due to improper sports technique or biomechanical problems, in which case working with a coach or trainer is the best way to prevent the development of a chronic problem. Make sure you do the correct warm-up and include enough cross-training to prevent tendon injuries.

Overuse injuries are the result of repeated use, stress, and trauma to the body's soft tissues (muscles, tendons, bones, and joints) without adequate time to heal. These are sometimes called cumulative or repetitive stress injuries.

Watch out

If you suddenly develop tendon pain and suspect tendonitis, the first thing to do is stop activities and rest. Tendinitis responds to the RICE method (rest, ice, compression, and elevation). This method helps reduce inflammation and swelling, as well as temporarily relieve pain. This type of conservative treatment is usually all that is needed to recover from true tendonitis. Tendonitis usually clears up in a few days to a few weeks.

Unfortunately, it can take two to six months to recover from prolonged tendinopathy. Many tendon injuries develop into chronic problems that gradually worsen as the athlete continues to exercise despite pulling pain.

If tendon pain persists for more than a few days despite rest and conservative treatment, you should see a sports medicine specialist for an evaluation and work with a physical therapist to repair the tendon.

Physical therapists may use ultrasound or other treatments for tendinopathy. In some cases, splints or staples may be used to relieve pressure on the tendon as it heals. Common rehabilitation methods include ultrasound, medication, massage, braces, or splints.

The final stage of tendinopathy rehabilitation includes strengthening and flexibility exercises. Your physical therapist will help you determine the best rehabilitation route for you, but it is important to understand that starting any exercise before the tendon heals can make the problem worse, so it is important to follow the recommendations of your therapist or doctor .


If you can determine the cause of the tendon injury and correct it, long-term problems can often be avoided. If your pain is caused by overuse, reduce or stop that activity and find a replacement. If the pain is caused by poor technique or ergonomics, see a trainer or instructor for skills training. If you can eliminate the damaging factors, you have a much better chance of a full recovery.

To prevent recurrence of injuries due to excessive tendon tension, athletes should maintain a training program that includes different intensities and durations, and types of activity.

Specific types

Some areas of the body that tend to injure tendons include:

  • Tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis)
  • Golfer's elbow (medial epicondylitis)
  • Achilles tendonitis
  • Wrist tendonitis
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
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