Living With Chronic Tendon Injuries

Tendon injuries range from Achilles tendinopathy at the heel to rotator cuff tendinopathy at the shoulder to patellar tendon injuries at the knee joint. They’re common and account for at least 7% of doctor visits in the United States. 

You may experience a tendon injury due to sports, but they can also result from job or lifestyle activities. Regardless of why you have one, a chronic tendon injury can severely affect your quality of life.

If you’re living with a chronic tendon injury, our team at The Center for Podiatric and Sports Medicine is here to help. We assist with pain management, restoration of function, and improved performance.

Why tendon injuries occur

Tendons are unique connective tissue that must display characteristics of strength, flexibility, and elasticity. While these qualities make your tendons super functional, they also make tendons susceptible to injury.

In acute tendon injuries, bleeding and inflammation play a major role in the pain and decreased function of a tendon. If you tear a tendon, completely or partially, for example, it’s an acute injury.

Chronic tendon injuries are different. Most often resulting due to overuse, they can occur in tendons that have a poor blood supply, so healing is slow-going. Collagen — a major tissue protein — at the tendon separates. This makes the tendon vulnerable to complete degeneration.

Care for chronic tendon injuries

Chronic tendon injuries require delicate management. Use of corticosteroid injections and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) for pain mitigation should be limited. Drugs can ease pain temporarily, but do nothing to promote healing or return to function. Long-term use of steroid injections can break down the connective tissue at the joint further, and long-term use of NSAIDs can cause complications in the gut.

But the use of these drugs occasionally can help increase your range of motion temporarily so you can participate in rehab exercises to improve your condition. Never use drugs to push through pain during sports practice or competition.

Therapy for chronic tendon injuries should instead involve rest and protection. You may need to commit to modified activity for several months to give your tendon a chance to heal. This may include giving up a season of play or several key races. The long-term results are worth it.

Physical therapy is an important part of helping the body heal from tendon injuries, because it can encourage greater circulation to the damaged tendon and heal dysfunctional movement patterns that contribute to tendon pain. Exercises that rest the damaged tendon but strengthen nearby muscle groups encourage healing and restoration of movement.

Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy, laser treatments, ultrasound, and shock wave therapy can be helpful in stimulating healing for certain chronic tendon injuries. These strategies encourage your body’s natural healing capabilities to ramp up and lead to self-repair of the damaged tendon.

In some cases, chronic tendon injuries require surgical intervention. Our team at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine usually recommends surgery only when less invasive treatments fail to reduce pain and improve function.

If you’re living with a chronic tendon injury, call us at either our Manhattan or White Plains, New York, office, or use online booking for our Manhattan location. We can help you manage the pain and restore function so you don’t suffer reduced mobility and performance any longer than you have to. 

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