You can prevent a tendon injury (also known as tendinopathy) from developing or recurring by taking steps at home, work, and during activities to promote healing and protect your tendons.
Home treatment steps include:
- Rest the affected area and avoid any activity that may cause pain. Get enough sleep. To keep your overall health and fitness, continue exercising but only in ways that do not stress the affected area. Do not resume an aggravating activity as soon as the pain stops. Tendons require weeks of additional rest to heal. You may need to make long-term changes in the types of activities you do or how you do them.
- Apply ice or cold packs as soon as you notice pain and tenderness in your muscles or near a joint. Apply ice 10 to 15 minutes at a time, as often as twice an hour, for 72 hours. Continue applying ice (15 to 20 minutes at a time, 3 times a day) as long as it relieves pain. Although heating pads may feel good, ice will relieve pain and inflammation.
- Take pain relievers. Use acetaminophen or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or naproxen, as directed for pain relief. NSAIDs also reduce any inflammation you might have in or around the tendon (tendinitis). NSAIDs come in pills and in a cream that you rub over the sore area. Do not rely on medicine to relieve pain in order to continue overusing a joint.
- Do range-of-motion exercises each day. Gently move your joint through its full range of motion, even during the time that you are resting the joint area. This will prevent stiffness in your joint. As the pain goes away, continue range-of-motion exercises and add other exercises to strengthen the muscles around your joint.
- Gradually resume your activity at a lower intensity than you maintained before your symptoms began. Warm up before and stretch after the activity. Increase your activity slowly, and stop if it hurts. After the activity, apply ice to prevent pain and swelling.
- Avoid tobacco smoke. Tendon injuries heal more slowly in smokers than in nonsmokers. Smoking delays wound and tissue healing.
To prevent tendon injuries from developing or from happening again:
- Warm up and stretch. Warm up before any activity, and stretch gently after you finish.
- Strengthen your muscles to reduce stress on the soft tissues. A physical therapist, an athletic trainer, or your doctor can teach you specific exercises for strengthening your injured area.
- Evaluate and change daily activities that tend to cause or aggravate your symptoms. In your daily routine, change activities involving repeated movements that may strain your muscles or joints. For example, start alternating hands or change the grip size of your tool.
- Try alternating your usual activities with some new ones. For example, if you like to walk for exercise and have had Achilles tendon problems, try swimming or doing water exercise on some days.
Notice what you do and how you do it, and take action if needed.
- If you suspect that certain activities at your workplace are causing a tendon injury, talk to your human resources department for information on alternative ways of doing your job, equipment modifications, or other job assignments.
- If a certain exercise or sport is causing a tendon injury, consider taking lessons to learn proper techniques. Also, have an athletic trainer or person who is familiar with sports equipment check your equipment to ensure that it is well suited to your size, strength, and ability. Demonstrate how you use your equipment, and ask for feedback about any mistakes you might be making.