Your body contains thousands of tendons — important connective tissues that attach your muscles to your bones, which enables movement. Like all tissues, your tendons can become damaged or injured, leaving you with pain as well as limited movement.
To break down the different types of tendon injuries, the team here at William Schell, MD, thought we’d pull together a primer on tendon injuries to describe some of the more common ones and how we go about repairing them.
The most common types of tendon injuries
In general, there are two ways you can incur damage in your tendons — overstressing the connective tissue through repeated movements and acute injuries.
Under repetitive use injuries in your tendons, there are two conditions that can cause a good deal of pain and limited movement:
This type of tendon overuse injury occurs when tiny tears develop in your tendon, which leads to pain and inflammation. Prime examples of tendonitis are Achilles tendonitis, tennis elbow, golfer’s elbow, pitcher’s shoulder, and jumper’s knee.
As you can see, these overuse injuries have names associated with sports, as these activities place added stresses on your tendons. Of course, tendonitis can develop outside of sports.
This tendon condition often occurs after tendonitis and is characterized by a breakdown of collagen in your tendons. Since collagen is a structural protein, your tendons weaken and are more prone to rupture (detaching from the bone).
When it comes to acute tendon injuries, these are one-time events that strain your tendon or lead to a tear or rupture in the tissue. Examples of acute tendon injuries are Achilles tendon ruptures in your ankle, patellar tendon tears in your knee, or rotator cuff tears in your shoulder.
Treating tendon damage
How we go about treating your tendon injury depends on the underlying problem. If it’s a case of tendonitis, we typically recommend conservative measures, such as icing, rest, physical therapy, and steroid injections to ease the discomfort. These treatments are highly effective and 99% of cases of tendonitis heal completely.
If you have a tear in your tendon, we may need to immobilize the area so the tear can heal. This works well for partial tears, but full tears or ruptures often require surgery, as your tendon won’t reattach itself to your bone on its own.
Dr. Schell has extensive experience with tendon tears in the major joints, and he can quickly help you regain full use of your joint on the heels of a tendon rupture.
Whether you have an acute tendon injury or an overuse injury that develops over time, the earlier you seek treatment, the sooner we can get you back to full movement. This is especially important when you have damage that weakens the connective tissue, which leaves you vulnerable to much larger problems.
If you suspect you have a tendon injury, we urge you to set up an appointment by contacting our office in Columbus Circle on New York City’s Upper West Side.