By Brent Vanderloop
Physiotherapist at Life Ready Physio Midland
The term tendinopathy describes conditions of the tendon associated with improper loading tolerance of the tendons, which are made of a flexible but non-elastic collagen. The role of tendons in the body is to attach muscle to bone. Most muscles in our body are attached at either one or both ends via a tendon and as such, it is possible to get a tendon injury in many places on our body. The pain often feels close to or in a joint due to their close proximity to joints (e.g. shoulder/elbow in the photo).
Patients may present with pain following physical activity that involves the injured area. The more demanding the task often creates more severe pain. The pain is created due to the load being placed on the tendon being greater than it can currently handle.
Tendon injuries are mainly about load tolerance. If we keep overloading the tendon, then we keep aggravating it and healing doesn’t occur. Due to this, most people’s natural response is to stop using it as to stop causing the pain. This works as long as you aren’t using that area, but this isn’t possible for us in the long term. Eventually, we are going to have to use the tendon for a physical task. What happens from not using the tendon is that it loses even more tolerance to load and becomes even easier to aggravate.
So, what should you NOT do if you have a tendinopathy? The answer is both overload AND underload the tendon. This is very difficult and requires assistance by an experienced physiotherapist.
A physiotherapist will be able to prescribe you exercises that are the correct volume of repetitions as well as correct weight to not overload the tendon. With time as the tendon responds, it will slowly tolerate more load and the exercises can be gradually increased. This eventually leads to a tendon that is able to tolerate normal amounts of load again.
Tendon injuries are notoriously slow healers. Within four weeks, significant improvement is usually seen and within 6-8 weeks, most patients have made a near full recovery. This all depends on the severity of the tendinopathy.
If you believe you have a tendinopathy, please see a physiotherapist for an assessment to determine whether this is the case. If so, they can then start you on an individually tailored rehabilitation program as well as provide hands on treatment to assist in your recovery.
If you have any questions, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I would be happy to help.