Undue Stress, Improper Conditioning Can Lead to Tendon Tears

Healthy tendons help muscles and bones to function together

DAYTON, Ohio (December 17, 2018) – Muscles and bones are most often associated with a body’s strength, but it’s the tendons that do the unseen work needed to keep the musculoskeletal system working together.

A tendon is a tough, fibrous, cord-like tissue that connects the muscle to a bone or other tissue. Its role is often associated with vital connections made in the shoulder or foot, but it also plays a part in smaller areas of our body such as the attachment of the eyeball, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Tendons are prone to injury, much like our muscles and bones. The amount of stress that is applied often determines the extent to which they are harmed. Tendons can be torn partially or experience a full rupture, both of which result in a sudden and painful episode.

A tendon tear is often diagnosed through a clinical exam, in which a patient’s account and presence of muscle deformity or weakness point to the injury.

“You most often know it’s a tendon tear just from the patient’s story of when they felt or heard the tendon tear,” said Jeffrey Rayborn, MD, a sports medicine physician with Premier Orthopedics. “Once we have a good idea that is what has happened, then we confirm it through imaging, whether that is a MRI or ultrasound.”

A complete tendon tear usually requires surgery, but tendons that have an incomplete tear can often heal through more conservative measures. Rest, rehabilitation/physical therapy and other modalities are methods that are used to restore a tendon that has been partially torn. Newer treatments such as stem cell therapy or platelet-rich plasma therapy (also known as PRP) are often used to treat tendon injuries. PRP injections contain concentrated amounts of a patient’s platelets, which are drawn from their blood.

A complete tendon tear may sound scary to some, but a partial tear has challenges of its own. A tendon is like an elastic tissue. Tendons have a harder time properly regenerating their tissue, unlike a muscle, which is larger and much more vascular. A tendon that completely tears will retract or disconnect from the affected bone, while a tendon that partially tears will stay connected, but begin building up scar tissue that hurts its elastic properties.

“I always describe it as that rubber band that’s been in the cupboard forever, and its hard and crusty,” Dr. Rayborn said. “You want a nice, stretchy rubber band, but we often have to work through the scar tissue that has formed to get it back to make it healthy and stretchy again.”

Sometimes tendon tears can occur without warning or reason. Anyone who leads an active lifestyle could experience an injury to a tendon. However, it’s good to always be aware of things that might lead to the injury:

Overworking your tendons – Anything that places stress on a muscle or tendon increases your risk for a tear or rupture. A tendon can weaken when it is repeatedly involved in the same type of activity or exercise.

Not allowing time for healing – A tendon that has been injured is at a much higher risk for a tear than one that has never been hurt. Make sure to follow the full recovery plan when a tendon is hurt to reduce the risk of a repeat injury.

The use of injections – Use of cortisone injections to help with pain or swelling from another injury can weaken the muscle and place the tendon at risk for injury.

Enlist proper conditioning – Consult a professional if you are beginning a conditioning program for a sport. Improper conditioning can place undue stress on muscles and tendons and expose them to the repetitive actions that lead to injury.

For more information on tendon tears or to find a Premier Physician Network physician near you, visit www.PremierPhysicianNet.com/ortho.

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