Does Physical Therapy Work to Relieve Tendinitis?

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You’ve got an ache or a pain and you’re wondering if it’s tendinitis. Or you know you have tendinitis, and you’re wondering what type of treatment is available. Will physical therapy help? Or maybe you’re just wondering what the difference is between tendinitis, tendinosis, and tendinopathy.

You have questions, we have answers.

To start with, Tendinitis is an acute condition where the tendons that connect your muscles to your bones become inflamed, usually as a result of a sudden or heavy exertion. Often confused with tendinitis, tendinosis is a chronic condition resulting from habitual overuse. Repetitive movements at work or during athletics, without giving the tendon time to rest and heal, can lead to a degeneration of the collagen that forms the tendon—i.e. tendinosis.

Tendinopathy is an umbrella term that encompasses all tendon injuries, including both tendinitis and tendinosis.

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Where do Tendinitis and Tendinosis occur?

Tendon injuries can occur through the body, especially near major joints. The elbow, knee, and ankle are often vulnerable. Common problems also occur at the wrist, the rotator cuff, and the tendon connecting the biceps to the shoulder. A sharp pain or burning sensation is a clue that something is wrong. Symptoms can occur gradually and worsen over time.


Tendinitis Treatment vs. Tendinosis Treatment

When it comes to treatment, it’s important to have a clear diagnosis of whether the problem is tendinitis or tendinosis. Treatment goals and timelines are different for each condition. A common goal of tendinitis treatment, for example, is to reduce inflammation, and so anti-inflammatory medications might be recommended. However, if the condition is tendonosis, anti-inflammatory medications are not recommended because they are associated with inhibited collagen repair—and the repair of damaged collagen is a key goal of tendinosis treatment.

Tendinitis recovery can take from several days to six weeks, depending on the extent of the damage. Tendonosis recovery may require many months of treatment.


Tendinitis Treatment with Physical Therapy

Treatment varies depending on the location and severity of the injury and whether you’re dealing with tendinitis or tendonosis, so specific recommendations should be left to your Physical Therapist. But your treatment may involve any of the following:

  • Rest. Especially if your injury is caused by repetitive motion, it’s a good idea to avoid that motion while you recover. That means you might need to find alternatives to your normal routine: golfing, tennis, typing.
  • A splint, brace, or sling might be necessary for a short time.
  • Range of motion exercises can help with recovery and help to prevent the aggravation of a stiff or frozen joint.
  • Your Physical Therapist might perform manual therapy such as gentle joint movements, soft tissue massage, and stretches.
  • Strengthening exercises, possibly with elastic resistance tubing, can help with injury recovery and prevention of future injuries.
  • Education and functional training can teach you how to avoid injuring yourself all over again once you return to your normal activities.