Tendinopathy is a long-term condition caused by overuse. It is an umbrella term under which reside injuries such as tennis elbow, golfer’s elbow or ongoing Achilles tendon concerns that are indicative of long-term deterioration of the tendon that may or may not include inflammation. Unlike inflammation-based issues such as tendinitis, treatment and recover from tendinopathy is a long road that requires rebuilding damaged tissue.
What Are Tendons?
Tendons are the strong tissues responsible for binding muscle to bone. A synovium or synovial membrane encases most tendons; where a synovial sheath exists, there is also oleaginous fluid between the tendon and the sheath, which acts as a lubricant.
Different Tendon-Related Issues
Tendonitis is generally the result of an acute injury and is identified primarily by inflammation. Tendinosis speaks to a degeneration of the tendon. Tendinopathy is more general and does not specify the type of injury. Tenosynovitis refers specifically to inflammation of the sheath (synovium) that surrounds most tendons.
What Causes Tendinopathy?
Generally speaking, overuse causes tendinopathy. While most repetitive strain injuries (RSIs) occur in the wrist and are labeled tenosynovitis, this is not always the case. Occasionally, overuse is not the cause of tendinopathy, and the problem appears to happen out of the blue. Though rare, an infection can cause tendinopathy, and rheumatoid arthritis is also a known culprit, though swelling often accompanies such cases.
Who Generally Develops Tendinopathy
The unfortunate nature of tendinopathy means healthy, life-prolonging activities most likely led to your diagnosis, such as physical exertion requiring repetitive use of the joints and tendons. Age can be a factor in developing tendinopathy, as naturally weakening tendons are more susceptible.
The R.I.C.E Method of Treatment
R.I.C.E stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Many experts stand behind this treatment method to minimize inflammation and relieve pain caused by tendinopathy. However, tendinopathy is pernicious and requires time, so there could be a lot of ice and relaxation in your future.
Emphasis on the “R”
Tendinopathy is usually a result of continuous overuse over an extended period, so a quick fix is unlikely. The condition most likely developed over years, so it is not going away tomorrow. Unfortunately, this means stopping the activities that caused the injury is the best line of defense, and you may need to find new energetic outlets for a while.
Sports Medicine and Physical Therapy
Conservative, at-home treatments are a fantastic start, but sometimes it’s better to bring in the experts. Ultrasounds, medications, massage, splinting, and bracing might be required to deliver the most improvement in the shortest time span. Sports and physical therapists can help you heal from tendinopathy by helping you strengthen the damaged areas in a safe manner.
Prevention is Key
It’s always advisable to take measures to prevent tendinopathy before it has an opportunity to develop. Ensuring your physical activities are accompanied by proper form and correct alignment, in addition to passion, can go a long way toward preventing injury. Sometimes a simple tweak in form and ergonomics is all you need.
New Treatments for Tendinopathy?
Physical therapists, sports therapists, and doctors may use shockwave therapy to treat the area affected by tendinopathy. Autologous blood injections are also used when all else has failed. Whether or not these treatments are the best choice and can be relied upon to do the job is still a matter of medical debate.
Sometimes You Just Need a Change
If you have dealt with repeated instances of tendon injury or pain due to a certain activity, it could be time to put that practice on the back shelf and take up a new, gentler form of physical exertion. Over time, any activity — no matter how well-performed — will begin to tax the body, and there are plenty of excellent ways to raise your heart rate and stretch your body.