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Exploring Tendon Problems | Academy of Scientific Therapeutic massage

Painful tendon issues are extremely prevalent in the present day and are most frequently related to power overuse. Quite a few different elements may also result in these situations. On this installment we’ll check out essential components of tendon construction, operate, and customary causes of tendon ache so we are able to finest assist our purchasers.


Tendon Construction and Operate

Tendons are composed of dense fibrous connective tissue primarily oriented in parallel strands which might be composed of collagen and elastin. Collagen primarily offers the tendon its energy and resilience, and elastin offers the tissue with slight pliability. It’s extra necessary for the tendon to be sturdy and resilient than for it to be pliable. Consequently, there’s a increased focus of collagen than elastin inside tendon tissue.

The first operate of tendon tissue is to transmit the muscle’s contractile pressure to the bone. Some tendons carry a a lot increased tensile load than others. For instance, the proximal tendon attachment of the latissimus dorsi is throughout the large expanse of the lumbodorsal fascia (Picture 1). Meaning the pulling energy of the muscle spreads throughout all of these fibers that ultimately mix in with the lumbodorsal fascia. The design of this tendon ends in much less load on every strand.

Picture 1
The massive and flat tendon of latissimus dorsi
Picture is from 3D4Medical’s Full Anatomy software

The Achilles tendon construction has a really totally different story. The tendon itself is a spherical and pencil-like tendon attaching to the calcaneus. The gastrocnemius and soleus muscle mass transmit their highly effective contraction pressure by means of the Achilles tendon. Nevertheless, the person tendon fibers should deal with better tensile hundreds on this case because the pressure is transmitted by means of a smaller diameter tendon. Fixed excessive pressure hundreds are one cause why power overuse ache situations of the Achilles tendon are so widespread.


Understanding Tendon Pathology

There are three main tendon issues brought on by power overuse, however the distinction between them can typically get a little bit murky. Clinicians typically use the time period tendinopathy when referring to those issues. Tendinopathy merely means pathology of the tendon. Let’s check out the three sorts of tendon issues.


Tendinitis: the commonest identify used for power overuse tendon pathologies is tendinitis (additionally spelled tendonitis). This situation is taken into account an inflammatory dysfunction, and thus has the -itis suffix. Beforehand it was thought that the first pathology occurring in tendinitis was tearing of the parallel collagen fibers and subsequent inflammatory response. Nevertheless, current analysis has indicated that this isn’t a typical situation, regardless that it might probably happen. There may be nonetheless a good quantity of debate within the scientific literature about whether or not power overuse tendon issues are inflammatory. Nevertheless, it’s correct to say inflammatory exercise in power overuse tendon issues seems a lot much less widespread than we used to consider.


Tendinosis: Within the mid-to-late Eighties a number of analysis research had been revealed indicating that many power overuse tendon pathologies didn’t seem to contain inflammatory cells. Their analysis confirmed that power overuse tendon issues had been probably brought on by degeneration of the collagen matrix inside the tendon and never from tendon fiber tearing with an inflammatory response. Because of the research, the time period tendinosis (-osis that means pathology) grew to become extra extensively used. More moderen analysis has prompt that there nonetheless could also be some inflammatory exercise, particularly within the very early phases of a tendon dysfunction, so the idea of non-inflammatory overuse tendon pathologies remains to be considerably debatable.


Tenosynovitis: Sure tendons, particularly these within the distal extremities which course round sharp angles, are lined in a synovial sheath (Picture 2). If a tendon doesn’t need to handle excessive friction forces, it’s usually not enclosed in a synovial sheath. Friction throughout repetitive exercise could cause an inflammatory response between the tendon and the encompassing synovial sheath. There might also be some fibrous adhesion between the tendon and the encompassing sheath. The fibrous inflammatory response between the tendon and its sheath known as tenosynovitis.

Picture 2
Synovial sheaths surrounding tendons within the distal extremities
Picture is from 3D4Medical’s Full Anatomy software

Causes of Overuse Tendon Pathology

There are a selection of potential causes of power overuse tendon pathology. The most typical is repetitive loading. Sure tendons are much more prone to repetitive loading damage than others. Repetitive loading often refers to repeated pulling on the tendon from recurring muscular contractions. Nevertheless, current research have prompt that power compressive hundreds on tendons could also be a main issue for tendon pathologies as nicely.1 Attributable to their anatomical association, sure tendons could also be prone to compressive forces because the tendon bends round a bony prominence. When its related muscle contracts, the tendon is pulled tighter in opposition to the bone inflicting elevated compressive load on the tendon.

It’s comparatively straightforward to know why particular mechanical forces on the tendon can result in overuse issues. Nevertheless, different elements additionally seem with some frequency in folks with numerous tendinopathies. It’s not clear why, however weight problems, alcoholism, systemic issues, and numerous genetic elements additionally seem with common frequency in folks affected by tendinopathy.2

Sure drugs are additionally identified to trigger tendon issues. For a few years it was commonplace observe to prescribe corticosteroids for power overuse tendon issues as a result of they had been perceived to be an inflammatory downside. Corticosteroids are very efficient at managing inflammatory issues. Nevertheless, in depth analysis round corticosteroids has proven that they’ve long-term detrimental results on collagen regeneration, so whereas they’re very efficient at ache discount, they could be dangerous in the long run for therapeutic of the broken tendon tissue.

One other necessary group of medicines which might be identified to trigger tendon issues are the household of antibiotics known as fluoroquinolones. The usage of these antibiotics is a necessary issue to select up within the consumer historical past regardless that it might appear unrelated. Fluoroquinolones inhibit fibroblast metabolism that’s mandatory for tendon regeneration.3 Purchasers might typically be taking this group of antibiotics for situations equivalent to respiratory infections, after which develop some power overuse tendon pathology with out figuring out the correlation between the 2.



The diploma of ache felt in tendon issues just isn’t at all times per the diploma of harm or dysfunction within the tendon tissue. That may make figuring out tendon issues at totally different phases more difficult. Nevertheless, there are a number of constant patterns throughout evaluation with most overuse tendon pathologies. The chart under helps you acknowledge how numerous forces on the tendon are evaluated throughout easy vary of movement evaluations.


Energetic Shortening: Tendons don’t truly shorten, so the time period ‘actively shortening’ refers back to the related muscle. There’s a load on the tendons throughout lively motion, so when a tendon pathology is extreme sufficient, this motion often produces ache. Nevertheless, for some overuse tendon issues the quantity of load in an lively vary of movement analysis might not be sufficient to trigger ache as a result of the tensile load just isn’t important sufficient.


Energetic Lengthening: Simply with lively shortening, ‘lively lengthening’ refers to actions of the muscle (on this case, eccentric contractions). There’s a tensile load on the tendon throughout lively lengthening, and this load will increase close to the very finish vary of motion because the connective tissue components in a muscle are additionally pulled. Subsequently, tendon pathology ache is often better close to the top vary of elongation.


Passive Shortening: Passively shortening a muscle removes the load on the tendon. Subsequently, ache from tendon issues decreases with passive shortening. This precept is important to contemplate as a result of recognizing what ought to NOT harm may help set up a sample that factors to a selected tissue concerned.


Passive Lengthening: Similar to with lively lengthening, tendon tissue is underneath growing tensile load because the muscle-tendon unit elongates with passive lengthening (stretching). Subsequently tendon pathologies usually reproduce ache close to the top vary of any motion that stretches the muscle-tendon unit.


Guide Resistance: Probably the most efficient strategies of figuring out tendon issues is with handbook resistance. Throughout resisted muscle actions there’s a extra important load on the tendon than throughout different range-of-motion evaluations. This evaluation methodology is particularly useful for evaluating tendons like these of the higher extremity, which aren’t weight-bearing.


The ache felt from tendon issues in these numerous analysis procedures is often felt within the tendon itself. Subsequently, palpation can also be necessary in evaluating these issues. Palpating the tendon concurrently the range-of-motion procedures can enhance the load on the tendon and make every testing process extra delicate.

Keep in mind, the ache stage felt within the tendon might circuitously correlate with the quantity of tissue harm or tendon dysfunction. Typically tendon harm might be fairly superior earlier than it turns into symptomatic. Then again, we additionally know that even minor, early-stage tendon issues might be fairly painful.


Therapy Concerns

Therapeutic massage is a typical therapy technique for overuse tendon issues, with the commonest probably being deep transverse friction (DTF) (Picture 3). For years it was taught that the first physiological impact of DTF was that it helped to align scar tissue after tendon fiber tearing. When analysis indicated that tendon fiber tearing was not a probable trigger for many power overuse tendon issues, that known as into query how DTF works.

Picture 3
Deep transverse friction utilized to the Achilles tendon

DTF utilized to the tendon nonetheless seems an efficient therapy for tendon issues, nevertheless, particularly when mixed with different methods that target all the muscle-tendon unit. So why does it work? One principle that has some preliminary analysis help is that the precise strain and motion utilized throughout DTF stimulates fibroblast exercise that encourages collagen restore within the broken tendon. Extra analysis is required to confirm this concept, nevertheless it appears to be believable.

Therapeutic massage methods that target all the muscle-tendon unit are additionally efficient at ache administration with tendon issues. Therapeutic massage helps handle ache by means of a course of known as descending modulation, by which a selected stimulus (the therapeutic contact of therapeutic massage) helps to show down the quantity on sensory data that heightens the ache response. It’s the actual mechanism behind soothing a sore arm or leg by gently rubbing them.

Therapeutic massage methods that stimulate the sensory and proprioceptive exercise of the concerned muscle mass could also be fairly efficient in initiating this course of. For instance, lively engagement methods that use lively muscle contraction together with a selected therapeutic massage approach are useful for encouraging the descending modulation response (Picture 4.)

Picture 4
Practitioner providing resistance to eccentric flexion in an lively engagement approach for the wrist extensor muscle mass

One other issue that has proven important profit in tendinopathy therapy is progressive loading of the tendon. Eccentric train seems to be the best means of accelerating load on the tendon for these rehabilitation methods. Eccentric loading on the tendon appears to have each neurological and mechanical responses within the tendon that assist encourage a extra speedy return to operate. Lots of the lively engagement methods talked about above use eccentric actions on the tendon whereas therapeutic massage is utilized. That could be one of many foremost the explanation why they seem so efficient.

Persistent overuse tendon issues are one of the widespread soft-tissue issues you might be more likely to see in your observe. Isolating the issue and distinguishing tendon pathology from different mushy tissue causes will assist you to assemble probably the most applicable therapy technique. Along with the mushy tissue work we make use of we’re additionally educators with our purchasers. They may spend the vast majority of their lives outdoors our therapy room and we must always assist them perceive issues they need to keep away from and issues they will do to reinforce the therapy plan.

To paraphrase Canadian physiotherapist, Greg Lehman, our main aim in any therapy technique for these issues needs to be first to ‘calm issues down, after which to ultimately construct them again up’. The basic strategy to effectiveness is recognizing the place that Goldilocks zone is of calming issues down and constructing them again up. For those who don’t lower irritability within the tissues sufficient, otherwise you attempt to strengthen them too quick, you might be more likely to perpetuate the issue. For those who spend an excessive amount of time attempting to lower irritability and by no means deal with strengthening and treating the tendon, it’s possible you’ll delay applicable therapeutic. Like so many issues in our subject, discovering the perfect steadiness is the trick!



  1. Prepare dinner JL, Purdam C. Is compressive load an element within the growth of tendinopathy? Br J Sports activities Med. 2012;46(3):163-168. doi:10.1136/bjsports-2011-090414
  2. Van Der Vlist AC, Breda SJ, Oei EHG, Verhaar JAN, De Vos RJ. Scientific danger elements for Achilles tendinopathy: A scientific assessment. Br J Sports activities Med. 2019;53(21):1352-1361. doi:10.1136/bjsports-2018-099991
  3. Magnan B, Bondi M, Pierantoni S, Samaila E. The pathogenesis of Achilles tendinopathy: A scientific assessment. Foot Ankle Surg. 2014;20(3):154-159. basic:10.1016/j.fas.2014.02.010



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