Tendinopathy is an umbrella term for an injury to the tendon due to overuse. Tendons are fibrous connective tissues throughout the body that connect the bones to the muscles.

Tendons are more prone to injury than muscles when a person overstrains them, as tendons have fewer blood vessels. They also take longer to heal than other body tissue.

According to a 2017 review, tendon injuries account for 50% of sporting injuries.

Research states the most common areas of tendon injury may include the following:

  • shoulder (rotator cuff)
  • elbow
  • patellar (kneecap)
  • buttocks
  • Achilles (heel)

In this article, we examine tendinopathy and its symptoms and causes. We also look at how it differs from tendinitis and the potential treatment and prevention methods.

A person with tendinopathy may experience the following in one or more of their tendons:

  • pain
  • swelling
  • stiffness
  • limited mobility
  • reduced flexibility
  • tendon thickening
  • weakness
  • a tendon that feels warm to touch

A person who has tendinopathy may have issues with exercise and other physical activities.

Tendinopathy is the general term for any injury to a tendon following overuse.

However, tendinitis is a term to describe inflammation of the tendon. The symptoms may be the same as tendinopathy, including pain, swelling, and stiffness of the tendon.

One medical report calls for an end to the term tendinitis, as people frequently confuse it with tendinopathy.

The same report claims that the degeneration of tendons and reoccurrence of a tendon injury is called tendinopathy rather than tendinitis. Health experts state that tendinopathy can take longer to heal than tendinitis.

Overexertion is usually the cause of tendinopathy. Some other causes may include:

  • deposition of calcium in the tendons, also known as calcific tendinopathy
  • the development of bone spurs
  • excess jumping or running
  • exercising on hard surfaces
  • holding sporting equipment incorrectly or using unsuitable equipment
  • lifting heavy weights
  • not warming up before exercising or lifting
  • intense physical activity, especially if it is repetitive
  • failing to allow for recovery time
  • working out in the cold
  • having obesity or overweight
  • having flat feet or bowed legs, which causes strain on the tendons

A person may be more at risk of developing tendinopathy for the following reasons:

Additionally, a person may be more at risk if they have a demanding sports training schedule.

Certain medications, such as corticosteroids, statins, and fluoroquinolones, may also increase a person’s likelihood of tendinopathy.

A person does not typically receive an official diagnosis of tendinopathy because they can often treat the pain at home. Tendon injuries usually improve without medical intervention.

A person should speak with a doctor when a tendon injury keeps returning or home remedies do not help.

People may need to undergo testing to receive a tendinopathy diagnosis. These tests may include physical exams and various scans.

A person can usually treat tendinopathy symptoms themselves. The healing time varies between individuals and can take anywhere from a few days to 12 weeks.

However, a person may need medical treatment for recurring or painful tendinopathy injuries.

Home remedies

Some of the home remedies for the management of tendinopathy symptoms are below.

  • Resting: A person should rest the tendon and elevate it if possible. They should also stop the activity that has caused the injury. People should not try to continue through the pain as this may delay the healing process.
  • Ice therapy: Regularly applying ice to the area may help speed up the healing process. Research on animals suggests that ice and cold therapy is effective in the treatment of pain management.
  • Stretching: A person should ask a doctor or physiotherapist for stretching exercises that may help manage tendinopathy. They should follow the stretches according to the instructions to avoid further damage to the tendon.
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs: To help manage pain, a person can take anti-inflammatory drugs. Examples of these include ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen sodium.

Medical treatment

Some of the following medical interventions may be necessary for severe cases of tendinopathy:

  • Corticosteroid injections: A doctor may suggest injecting the tendon with a corticosteroid treatment to reduce pain. However, a 2016 review indicates that corticosteroid treatment does not work for everyone.
  • Physiotherapy: A person may require a referral to a physiotherapist. Here, they will learn exercises and stretches to help improve their symptoms and encourage recovery.
  • Surgery: In severe cases, tendinopathy may need surgery to repair the tendon. This usually only occurs after a person has exhausted all other treatment options. A doctor may offer surgery if no other methods improve symptoms. A 2019 systematic review encourages medical professionals to persist with exercise treatment for at least 1 year before considering surgery for tendinopathy.

A person can help to prevent tendinopathy by:

  • warming up and cooling down before physical activity
  • attempting to reach or maintain a moderate weight
  • using appropriate sporting techniques and equipment
  • wearing appropriate and supportive footwear
  • participating in various physical activities to reduce the risk of repetitive injury
  • wearing supportive insoles if they have bowed legs or flat feet

A person should try home remedies for tendinopathy before consulting a doctor. However, they should seek medical advice if pain and swelling do not improve within a few days.

Additionally, if the tendon injury keeps recurring, they should speak with a doctor.

Tendinopathy is a manageable injury and is usually curable.

A person can try resting the area and using cold therapy when an injury occurs. Alternatively, they should seek medical attention if the pain does not disappear or keeps returning.

Tendinopathy is any tendon injury, usually due to overuse of the area. People sometimes confuse it with tendonitis.

Tendinopathy has a variety of possible causes. It usually occurs when a person places excess pressure on the tendons.

The condition is treatable, usually at home. However, in severe or ongoing cases, a person should consult a doctor to receive medical intervention.