Understanding Tendon Issues: Part 1

July 19, 2023

Tendons play a crucial role in our bodies, connecting muscles to bones and allowing us to move and perform various activities. However, sometimes these important structures can develop problems that affect their function. Two common tendon issues are tendonitis and tendonosis. In this article, we will explore these conditions to help you better understand them and their impact on your body.

Tendonitis: Inflammation that occurs when a tendon becomes irritated or inflamed. It often happens initially due to sudden injury or beginning of excessive wear and tear. Activities such as running, jumping, or repetitive motions in sports or work can lead to tendonitis.

The inflamed tendon may cause pain, swelling, tenderness, and even redness or warmth in the affected area. It’s like having a sore spot on the inside of your body, where the tendon is located. Common examples of tendonitis include tennis elbow, knee tendonitis, Achilles tendonitis, and rotator cuff tendonitis.

Tendonosis: On the other hand, tendonosis is a condition characterized by actual structural change in the tendon that results in less blood flow and overall less elasticity. Instead of functioning like the rubber band it should, the tendon becomes more leathery in nature. These changes may be called degeneration within the tendon. Unlike tendonitis, tendonosis is not primarily driven by inflammation, but rather change in the structure often due to blood vessels backing their way out of the tendon.

With tendonosis, the tendon undergoes changes at a cellular level. It can become thickened, weakened, and develop tiny tears within the tendon fibers. This condition often manifests as chronic pain, stiffness, and a loss of function in the affected area. Tendonosis can develop in various tendons throughout the body, such as the shoulder, knee, or wrist.

Understanding the Differences: While both tendonitis and tendonosis affect tendons, they have distinct characteristics and causes. Tendonitis is primarily an inflammatory present early on in the process, where as tendonosis, on the other hand, is a degenerative condition resulting from chronic overuse or insufficient healing. The tendon may not show obvious signs of inflammation but experiences changes at a cellular level, leading to chronic pain and functional limitations.

Next week, check out part 2 of this series for treatment ideas and information.