What to Know About Tendinosis

Medically Reviewed by Ross Brakeville, DPT on June 18, 2023
3 min read

Tendon pain can affect the way a joint or limb functions. Sometimes the discomfort is due to acute swelling in the tendon, called tendonitis. That’s different from tendinosis, which is due to chronic damage to a tendon. If you were able to look at the tendon, it would likely have a scarred and rubbery appearance.

Tendinosis is a chronic condition that results from a tendon repeatedly suffering smaller injuries that don’t heal correctly. You can’t see the effect of tendinosis by looking at the area, but you can feel the effects. Tendinosis can occur in any part of the body, including the elbow, forearm, wrist, shoulder, heel, and knee.

The chronic nature of tendinosis is, in part due to the haphazard formation of collagen, and increased nerve and blood vessel infiltration; all leading to hypersensitivity and pain.

Common causes of tendinosis include dealing with an acute injury, overuse of a tendon, or the way you position yourself when performing tasks like typing at your keyboard. Some of the factors that can increase your risk of developing tendinosis include:

Repetitive motions. You can develop tendinosis if you involve yourself in activities like playing tennis or performing manual labor. Computer programmers, assembly line workers, and professional athletes work in occupations with a higher rate of tendinosis.

Bodyweight. The pressure placed on your limbs from being overweight can place more stress on your tendons.

Medication. Certain medications may cause you to develop tendinosis, including antibiotics.

Tendons that are most subject to overuse and the development of tendinosis include:

  • Common extensor tendons located on the outside of your elbow
  • Rotator cuff tendons found alongside your shoulder socket
  • Gluteal tendons located on the outside of your hip
  • Achilles tendons found in the back of your heel
  • Patellar tendons connecting your kneecap to your shin bone

Other medical conditions could be causing your tendon pain besides tendinitis and tendinosis. Some of these conditions include:

Tendinopathy. A term used as a way of describing general tendon pain without knowing the specific cause.

Paratenonitis. A medical condition where there is inflammation in a thin layer of tissue that surrounds some tendons like the Achilles.

Tenosynovitis. A medical condition where there is inflammation in the synovial sheath surrounding certain tendons, like those found in your hands.

It’s good to understand the differences between terms used to reference issues with your tendons.

You may want to see if your tendon pain resolves by resting it and taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication. If you continue experiencing discomfort, you should schedule an appointment with your physician and/or physical therapist.

After performing a physical examination, they may refer you to a specialist experienced with treating tendon disorders like a sports medicine doctor. They may request further imaging to understand the extent of the injury.  Depending on examination and imaging, physical therapy management is often the first line of treatment.

If that doesn’t help, your doctor may get into other alternatives for treatment. How they choose to proceed depends on the severity of your tendinosis and whether you’re at risk of tearing the tendon, which would likely require surgery.

Platelet-rich treatment can help promote self-body healing. Coupling that with ongoing physical therapy may be enough to help you overcome your tendinosis. If nothing else works, your doctor may discuss surgical alternatives to deal with your injury.

If your occupation plays a role in exacerbating your tendinosis, there are changes you can make to your working environment that might ease your condition. Look into purchasing ergonomically designed equipment that helps you position your body correctly. You can find desks, chairs, keyboards, and mice that take the stress off of certain body parts.

Try to avoid staying in one position for a long time. Start working more frequent breaks into your daily routine and make yourself move around. Think about your technique as you go about physical activities like lifting heavy objects or playing sports. Those changes can make a big difference in the severity of your tendinosis.

If you think your medication is a factor in your condition, talk with your doctor about possible alternatives. Listen to what your body tells you when it comes to sending signals like tightness, pain, or other discomforts.

Make sure you inform your doctor if you experience any increase in discomfort because of your tendinosis. You don’t want to inadvertently make your condition worse.