“Some patients are hard on their tendons from playing sports, or being involved in other physical activities,” says Scott Adams, MD, orthopaedic surgeon at Orthopaedic Associates of Central Maryland. “When overuse of the tendon is involved, it usually leads to tendonitis.”
What is Tendonitis?
Tendonitis is defined as irritation or inflammation of the tendon. It typically does not need to be treated surgically, but rather with a method of treatment known as the RICE method. RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. This is a good start to treating tendonitis in any location of the body.
“We ask patients to rest what’s bothering them, keep ice on it to help decrease inflammation (which is usually what is causing most of the pain), use compression, which is typically in the form of an ACE wrap, and then keep it elevated to relieve swelling,” says Dr. Adams.
In addition to tendonitis being the most common injury, it’s also the most treatable. The most common injury is inflammation of the intact tendon. Just like muscles and joints, tendons can become inflamed and sore from overuse. These injuries can typically be treated non-surgically following the RICE method of care.
Tendon Tears Can Be Serious
Tendons are also prone to tears, either from slow tearing over time or from a sudden movement that causes the tendon to tear in half, usually seen in athletes. Tendon tears can potentially be very serious as they impair the muscle’s ability to move. Dr. Adams says that in some cases, individuals aren’t aware of the extent of the injury because movement is not completely impaired. However, these types of injuries are often accompanied by swelling and pain around the affected tendon. And, in certain cases of a torn tendon, the defect can be noticed through the skin at the site of the injury where more superficial (closer to the skin surface) tendons exist. Tendon tears should be checked by an orthopedist immediately to minimize further damage.
A torn tendon is repaired surgically by stitching the two ends back together and using a cast or splint for stabilization. Surgical repair done soon after a tear results in better outcomes.
“It’s always good to be seen by an orthopedist right away if you’re unsure about the severity of your injury,” says Dr. Adams. “It’s best to have it treated quickly so it doesn’t turn into something more serious.”
Tips to Help Prevent Tendon Strains and Tears
· Warm up appropriately for your activity. Think of your tendons as rubber bands. A cold rubber band is more likely to snap, as opposed to a warm rubber band that’s more flexible and can stretch farther without breaking.
· Train your body and ease into a new sport. Going hard right away makes you more prone to injury.
For more information about tendonitis and tendon injuries, as well as orthopaedists specially-trained in sports medicine and sports injuries, visit www.mdbonedocs.com or call us at (410) 644-1880.