Tendinitis vs. tendinosis: it’s important to understand which condition may be causing your tendon pain in Hyattsville

tendon pain in hyattsville

March 14, 2018

Tendons are thick bands of flexible tissue made of collagen that connect muscles to bones. There are about 4,000 tendons in the human body, and they range in size from the tiny tendons within the fingers to the massive Achilles tendon connecting your calf muscle to your heel. When pain develops in one of these tendons—most commonly around the knee, hip, shoulder, elbow or ankle/heel—the term commonly used that you may be familiar with is tendinitis; however, this may not always be appropriate. Below, we explain the differences between tendinitis and tendinosis, and why it’s important to distinguish between them to understand your tendon pain in Hyattsville.

The suffix “-itis” means inflammation, so tendinitis—or tendonitis—is technically defined as inflammation of a tendon. The term is used to describe an acute injury in which the tendon is overloaded from too much strain, typically from repeated physical activity or excessive weight. This overloading causes small tears to develop in the tendon and it becomes inflamed, swollen and painful, which are the telltale signs of tendinitis. For years, most tendon pain was referred to as tendinitis, but recent research and opinion is showing that tendinosis may be a much more common and appropriate term for many of these types of injuries.

Tendinosis is essentially a more chronic, or long-term form of a tendon injury compared to tendinitis, which is a tendon injury in its earlier stages. Tendinosis occurs from failed healing or repetitive trauma to a tendon over a longer course of time. This repeated trauma leads to a loss of collagen continuity, which means the fibers that make up the tendon are no longer aligned and fail to link together. Unlike tendinitis, inflammation is not present, but instead the damaged tendon becomes hard, thickened and scarred. There is also degeneration at the cellular level in tendinosis, which does not occur in tendinitis. Together, this results in a loss of strength and can lead to further injury to the tendon.

Physical therapy can effectively address whichever condition is causing your tendon pain in Hyattsville

As you can see, tendinitis and tendinosis do share some similarities, but the main difference is that tendinitis can progress to tendinosis if nothing is done to address it. While most forms of tendinitis will heal within about six weeks, tendinosis is a much more serious injury that can require up to 3-6 months to fully heal. Fortunately, a focused physical therapy program can be used to effectively manage both of these conditions, and treatment is generally quite similar. Common components of a treatment program include the following:

  • Rest and avoiding any activities that may aggravate the injured tendon
  • Strengthening exercises that start with the nearby muscles and then eventually move on to the specific area of the injured tendon
    • Eccentric loading exercises, in which the patient gradually strengthens the muscle while stretching, is particularly useful for these conditions
  • Stretching exercises to increase flexibility of the injured area
  • Anti-inflammatory pain medications may be helpful for tendinitis but not tendinosis, since no inflammation is present

The most important takeaway is that if you’re dealing with what may be a tendon injury, it’s best to address it in the early stages before the injury becomes chronic tendinosis. Though treatments are similar, the extended healing time required for tendinosis can make matters much more complicated, especially if you’re an athlete looking to return to your sport as soon as possible. So if you’re dealing with any type of tendon pain in Hyattsville, contact CAM Physical Therapy and Wellness Services at 301-853-0093 to schedule an appointment at any of our three clinics in Laurel, Hyattsville or Glenn Dale/Bowie, MD today, or click here for more information on the differences between tendinitis and tendinosis.