Tendinosis is a chronic tendon injury that typically occurs due to overuse of the tendon. It can cause symptoms such as swelling, burning pain, stiffness, and more.

Tendinosis can occur in tendons throughout the body. However, it may be more common in areas with consistent use, such as the elbows, shoulders, and knees. It is a degenerative condition that can worsen without proper treatment.

It is one type of tendinopathy, which is a term that describes all overuse injuries of the tendon. It can include both tendinosis and tendinitis.

This article explains the symptoms, causes, and treatments for tendinosis. It also discusses what makes it different from tendinitis.

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Tendons are the tough, fibrous cords that attach muscles to bones. Healthy tendons comprise straight, parallel fibers of collagen.

Tendinosis occurs when tendons degenerate, meaning that they begin to break down. Tendons may have small tears or disorganized collagen fibers instead of straight collagen fibers.

This condition is most common in the:

  • elbow
  • shoulder
  • knee
  • hip
  • Achilles heel tendons

Tendinosis may have links to other underlying conditions, such as tennis elbow and swimmer’s shoulder.

Tendinosis refers to the hardening, thickening, and scarring of the tendons. This causes pain and a loss of joint flexibility.

Common symptoms of tendinosis include:

  • localized burning pain and swelling around the tendon
  • pain that worsens during and after activity
  • stiffness in the joint
  • restricted joint movement
  • pain that persists for several months

Tendinosis is usually due to an overuse of the tendon. It can also occur from physical trauma, such as a fall or sports injury.

Hobbies or professions that require putting repeated stress on the tendons can cause tendinosis. Athletes and manual laborers, for example, are more prone to this disorder.

Tendon issues are less common in children because their tendons are stronger and more elastic.

Some of the most common causes of tendinopathy are sports injuries. These include:

  • tennis elbow
  • golfer’s elbow
  • stick and racquet sports, leading to hand and wrist tendinopathy
  • long-distance running and hurdling, leading to lower limb tendinopathy
  • running, leading to Achilles tendinopathy

Other factors that may increase the risk for tendon injuries include:

Tendons can take time to heal. The treatments for tendinosis aim to speed up the body’s natural healing processes.

Healthcare professionals may recommend the following at-home treatments:

  • Rest: Rest the tendon and avoid repetitive movements. This may include taking regular breaks when doing repetitive activities, such as typing.
  • Stretch: Stretch the tendon to increase its range of movement and flexibility and to promote circulation.
  • Massage: Massage the affected area to promote circulation.
  • Strengthen: Strengthen the muscles around the tendon with exercises to reduce daily strain on the injured tendon.
  • Braces or tape: Use braces or tape to protect the tendon from further injury.

Initial research from 2016 has also suggested that vitamin C and curcumin (turmeric) supplements may help promote collagen production and speed up healing.

A healthcare professional may also recommend the following treatments:

  • Extracorporeal shockwave therapy (EWST): This involves applying pressure waves to the surface of the skin. This may promote tissue regeneration and speed up the healing process. Research has shown EWST to be effective for some lower limb conditions.
  • Surgery: Surgery can remove damaged tissue to relieve pain and allow the tendon to heal.
  • Corticosteroid injections: Injections around the tendon can reduce short-term pain and swelling. However, they may also make relapse more likely and can sometimes impair collagen production. They can also cause potential complications, such as tendon rupture, when a person receives the injection into the Achilles tendon. This treatment is not a typical approach for this area.
  • Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections: These injections involve injecting plasma from the person’s blood into areas around the tendon. The platelets promote cell repair and healing.

Recovery time

Tendons take a long time to heal because the blood supply to tendons is typically low. Tendinosis may take at least 12 weeks to heal but can take up to several months. Physical therapy and other treatments may improve the outlook.

Tendinosis and tendinitis both refer to problems with the tendons. People often confuse the terms, and the medical community is still working on defining these terms.

Tendinosis is a degeneration of tendon tissue and does not typically involve inflammation. It is a chronic and long-term condition.

Tendinitis is tendon pain due to inflammation. A person can help ease symptoms through anti-inflammatories and ice.

A healthcare professional can often distinguish between tendinosis and tendonitis by scanning the affected area using an ultrasound or MRI scan.

Although treatment can be difficult, the long-term outlook for tendinosis is generally positive.

Without treatment, tendinosis can lead to ruptured tendons, so early interventions are important.

People can sometimes prevent tendinosis by ensuring they warm up thoroughly before exercise or beginning an activity involving repetitive joint movements. Wearing supportive shoes can protect tendons in the lower limbs.

Rest and physical therapy can speed up the recovery process and improve the long-term outlook for this condition.