Condition: Tendinopathy is a tendon injury, sometimes referred to as tendinitis. Tendons link muscles to bone.
Background: Tendinopathy is very common, and occurs most often in 30- to 60-year-olds. Most tendinopathy is due to wear and tear on the tendon, either as a natural result of aging, or overuse.
Risk Factors: People who perform repetitive motions either as part of their jobs or while participating in athletics are more at risk for tendinopathy.
History and Symptoms: Tendinopathy often causes pain, inflammation, stiffness and weakness in the affected area.
Physical Exam: A physician will feel the area to check for pain and tenderness. He or she will also check range of motion, such as asking a patient to extend the elbow. Other examinations include observing a patient’s posture and movements, to help understand what may have contributed to the problem.
Diagnostic Process: Special tests can be performed that can reproduce tendon pain. A PM&R physician is specially trained to diagnose tendinopathy through their extensive physical exam skills and special tests. For example, the Cozen test is typically used to check for “tennis elbow.” The physician gently holds the wrist downward while the patient presses upward against the physician’s hand. Then, the physician presses into the outside of the patient’s elbow to see how much pain results.
Rehab Management: There are several ways to help manage pain, such as rest, pain medications, icing the area, bracing, physical or occupational therapy, or even an injection. It is also important to make any changes in the kinds of activities that may have led to the tendinopathy so it does not return or worsen. A physical medicine and rehabilitation (PM&R) physician can help guide you to the most appropriate treatment plan based on your symptoms, the severity of your pain and your personal goals.
Other Resources for Patients and Families: Often tendinopathy is diagnosed after it is causing significant pain. Patients and families should not only identify problem areas that led to the tendinopathy, but learn to recognize early symptoms, so it does not reoccur or so new tendinopathy does not develop in other areas. A PM&R physician takes into account the whole patient, individualizing treatments and strategies for prevention with the patient’s goals and activity level in mind. Together, with your PM&R physician, you can reduce your pain and return to your normal activities.