First, we must answer the question – What is a tendon? A tendon is a rope-like structure that connects muscle to bone. When a muscle contracts the tendon provides an attachment point to assist in movement. Unfortunately, just like ropes we use to lift and pull objects in everyday life our tendons are susceptible to becoming frayed and damaged.
Regardless of the cause, a tendon that is not working properly will become swollen and painful. This is typically the result of an inflammatory process called “tendonitis.” Causes can be sudden – from a fall, or chronic – from repetitive activities.
Tendon disorders will more commonly affect the large joints of the body such as the rotator cuff of the shoulder, Achilles tendon of the ankle and the patella tendon of the knee. On average, men and women are most susceptible to tendon injuries during their third to sixth decade of life. This occurs as the blood supply to the tendon becomes diminished, affecting its overall strength and repairing properties.
Associated symptoms of tendonitis will include pain with movement and rest, direct swelling of the tendon, and loss of strength and function. The diagnosis is typically made through a patient history and exam. An MRI is also commonly used to assist in diagnosis and treatment especially if a complete tear is suspected or in cases that are not responding well to conservative care.
Initial treatment will include rest from painful activity, anti-inflammatory medications and a physical therapy program. For refractory cases, more aggressive management with cortisone injections and surgical removal of dead or infected tissue or repair of the tendon may be necessary.
Although not absolute, a routine exercise and strength training program will help maintain a healthier tendon over a lifetime and decrease the risk of developing tendonitis.
For more information on Tendonitis and other orthopaedic questions contact Shore Orthopaedic University Associates at 609-927-1991 http://www.shoreorthodocs.com.