A tendinopathy denotes an injured tendon. We have tendons all around our body – they’re strong, fibrous bands that connect our muscles to our bones. When we’re diagnosed with a tendinopathy, it means that something has caused our tendon to become injured, causing us to feel various (often painful) symptoms.
What about tendonitis and tendinosis?
Just to clear up the confusion, both of these terms also denote an injury to the tendon and many practitioners use these terms interchangeably, whether it is completely accurate to do so or not. For example, tendonitis denotes inflammation to the damaged tendon. However, inflammation is part of the tendinopathy process, so it may be seen as early stage tendinopathy. Regardless of the term, the ultimate goal and treatment is the same, so as a patient, don’t worry about paying too much attention to these varying terms.
So how did I injure my tendon?
Most tendinopathies are a result of overloading and repetitive force on the muscle and tendon over time. If your daily tasks or sporting activities are putting significant force on the tendon that exceeds what it can safely handle, small micro-tears begin to form. Normally, the body would repair the small amount of damage – often without any painful symptoms for you to notice. However, as you keep loading and overusing the tendon, it doesn’t get a chance to heal. It degenerates. The injury is serious now. Pain and inflammation begin. If this still isn’t enough for you to stop, listen to your body and seek effective treatment, then with more loading, the tendon will tear, or completely rupture.
The specific causes are really anything that combines using your tendon with force. Think lifting a heavy object, running, throwing a ball.. Whatever exerts your muscles and tendons past a normal, safe point – which can be different for everyone depending on your strength and previous conditioning.
How will I know if it’s a tendinopathy?
When a regular activity becomes painful, and you can feel that it’s linked to a particular movement of a muscle or muscle group, it’s sensible to wonder if you’ve damaged the tendon. Please don’t guess, however, as incorrect self-diagnoses more often than not lead to the worsening of the injury and a much longer recovery time. You’ll also likely notice:
- – Pain and aches that radiate around the injury site
- – Stiffness and limited movement around the injured tendon
- – Swelling and heat
- – Weakness when attempting to use the nearby injured area (e.g. weakness in the arm when you have a shoulder tendinopathy)