Is this topic for you?
The heel and elbow joints
are common sites of tendon injuries. For more information about tendon injuries
in these areas, see the topics
Achilles Tendon Problems and
This topic does not address
severe tendon tears or ruptures. To help you assess a tendon injury, see the
Shoulder Problems and Injuries,
Knee Problems and Injuries,
Finger, Hand, and Wrist Injuries, or
Toe, Foot, and Ankle Injuries.
What is a tendon injury?
Tendons are the tough fibers that connect muscle to
bone. For example, the
Achilles tendon connects the calf muscle to the heel bone. Most tendon
injuries occur near joints, such as the shoulder, elbow, knee, and ankle. A
tendon injury may seem to happen suddenly, but usually it is the result of many
tiny tears to the tendon that have happened over time.
may use different terms to describe a tendon injury. You may hear:
- Tendinitis. This means
"inflammation of the tendon."
- Tendinosis. This refers to tiny tears in the tissue in and
around the tendon caused by overuse.
Most experts now use the term
tendinopathy to include both inflammation and
microtears. But for many years most tendon problems were called "tendinitis." Many doctors still use this familiar word to describe a
What causes a tendon injury?
Most tendon injuries
are the result of gradual wear and tear to the tendon from overuse or aging.
Anyone can have a tendon injury. But people who make the same motions over and
over in their jobs, sports, or daily activities are more likely to damage a
A tendon injury can happen suddenly or little by little.
You are more likely to have a sudden injury if the tendon has been weakened
What are the symptoms?
Tendinopathy usually causes
pain, stiffness, and loss of strength in the affected area.
- The pain may get worse when you use the
- You may have more pain and stiffness during the night or
when you get up in the morning.
- The area may be tender, red,
warm, or swollen if there is inflammation.
- You may notice a
crunchy sound or feeling when you use the tendon.
The symptoms of a tendon injury can be a lot like those
How is a tendon injury diagnosed?
To diagnose a
tendon injury, a doctor will ask questions about your past health and your
symptoms and will do a physical exam. If the injury is related to your use of a
tool or sports equipment, the doctor may ask you to show how you use it.
If your symptoms are severe or do not improve with treatment,
your doctor may want you to have a test, such as an
How is it treated?
In most cases, you can treat a
tendon injury at home. To get the best results, start these steps right away:
- Rest the painful area, and avoid any
activity that makes the pain worse.
- Apply ice or cold packs for
10 to 15 minutes at a time, as often as 2 times an hour, for the first 72
hours. Keep using ice as long as it helps.
- Take over-the-counter
pain relievers such as acetaminophen or NSAIDs (such as ibuprofen or naproxen)
if you need them. Be sure to follow the nonprescription medicine precautions. Always take these medicines exactly as prescribed or according to the label.
- Do gentle
range-of-motion exercises and stretching to prevent
As soon as you are better, you can return to your
activity, but take it easy for a while. Don't start at the same level as before
your injury. Build back to your previous level slowly, and stop if it hurts.
Warm up before you exercise, and do some gentle stretching afterward. After the
activity, apply ice to prevent pain and swelling.
If these steps
don't help, your doctor may suggest physical therapy. If the injury is severe
or long-lasting, your doctor may have you use a splint, brace , or cast to hold
the tendon still.
It may take
weeks or months for a tendon injury to heal. Be patient, and stay with your
treatment. If you start using the injured tendon too soon, it can lead to more
To keep from hurting your tendon again, you may need to
make some long-term changes to your activities.
- Try changing your activities or how you do
them. For example, if running caused the injury, try swimming some days. If the
way you use a tool is the problem, try switching hands or changing your grip.
- If exercise caused the problem, take lessons or ask a trainer or
pro to check your technique.
- If your job caused the tendon injury,
ask your human resource department if there are other ways to do your
- Always take time to warm up before and stretch after you
Frequently Asked Questions