A tendon is a connective tissue that connects the bones of the body to the muscles. It is characterized by its tough yet flexible and fibrous nature. Contraction of skeletal muscles results in bone movement. The structure of the tendon facilitates this contraction force, hence it plays a very important role in carrying out the body movements.
Tendons are of varied sizes and shapes depending upon their function and location in the body. For example, the tendons attached at the carpal or metacarpal of the fingers are relatively smaller, while those like the Achilles tendon or patellar tendon are much larger. Their functioning is very smooth in normal conditions.
Sometimes, these normal, smooth gliding movements get impaired. The whole motion of the specific part of the body becomes itchy, irritating, and causes a lot of pain. Due to many reasons, it becomes sore and inflamed. In medical terminology, this condition is better known as tendonitis. A main constituent of the tendon is collagen matrix, a fibrous structural protein, which has great tensile strength. If afflicted with tendonitis, this matrix gets torn because of chronic overuse, ultimately resulting in tissue weakening.
► Chronic Overuse of Tendons
This condition is mainly experienced in body builders and athletes if they start their activities without proper initial warm-up. As the tendon can't cope with the sudden change in the parameters of the actions, it gets inflamed.
► Increasing Age factor
With increasing age, there is a sharp decline in the elastic properties of the tendons, which makes them more susceptible to an injury due to decreased tensile strength.
► Repetitive Stress
Repetitive movements of a particular body part makes it prone to an inflammation. This is especially common in sports persons and workers indulging in heavy labor work. Tennis elbow is a classic example of this case.
► Injury Related
Sometimes, as one tendon gets impaired, extra stress is laid on the neighboring tendon working in tandem with it. Due to this extra stress, such a condition may arise.
► Systematic Inflammatory Disease
In cases like rheumatoid arthritis, the probability of contracting tendonitis is much more.
► Anatomical Cause
In very rare cases, the tendon may get injured due to contact with a rough surface or an obstruction.
In most of the cases, when under pressure one starts experiencing pain. Movements of the particular area become more restricted, and one starts experiencing an itchy, burning sensation. In some cases, it even gets swollen and turns red. Thus, the symptoms may vary from a mild irritation to severe ache.
Generally, it is diagnosed through a physical examination only, as the symptoms are much more prominent externally. Swelling, redness, or tenderness of the tendon is visibly apparent. Pain upon moving the muscles is another criterion. Also, an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) can be of great help to detect the increased water content and even to identify a ruptured collagen matrix.
► Achilles Tendonitis
As the name itself suggests, it is the inflammatory condition of the Achilles tendon present at the back of the heel. Generally, it is characterized by swelling and pain. Early measures to cure it should be taken, as it can lead to the worsening of the condition due to further rupturing.
► Wrist Tendonitis
It is characterized by a tenderness of the tendon cover, and it requires only medication and rest to heal.
► Patellar Tendonitis
Commonly known as jumper's knee, this inflammation is associated with the patellar tendon.
► Rotator Cuff Tendonitis
Also known as 'shoulder bursitis', this inflammation is associated with the rotator cuff tendon.
► Tennis Elbow
Also known as 'epicondylitis', it is associated with an inflammation of the tendons in the elbow region. It is known as tennis elbow, as almost 50% of the tennis players suffer from this problem. It can be cured by surgery, medication, rest, and slow but steady return to exercise.
Immediate steps to be taken
The foremost thing to do is to stop the aggravating movements of the particular area. This break plays a vital role in restoring the normal functioning of the tendon. Also, the use of splint, strap, cap, or brace is useful as these protect the tendon from further damage. Application of an ice pack on the inflamed area works wonders in the course of immediate treatment by controlling the swelling.
➜ NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like Ibuprofen, Motrin, and Celebrex act as pain killers and decrease the inflammation by a considerable amount.
➜ If the condition does not improve even after the intake of drugs and adequate rest, then it is addressed by cortisone injections, which are directly injected at the exact site of injury.
➜ Sometimes,surgical treatment can be administered in cases such as tennis elbow.
➜ Proper strengthening of tendons is done under the watchful eyes of experts to lessen the exerted stress.
Since the process of collagen restructuring is slow, the rate of healing is also quite slow. One has to be always cautious as recurrence of trauma is very common. However, recent research works have shown a ray of hope with techniques like eccentric loading and injection of stem cells.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.