What’s in a name? When it comes to an injury of the tendon, it turns out the answer may be “quite a bit.”
Doctors may use several different terms to describe tendon injuries, so it’s important to understand what they mean. The 3 most common that you’re likely to hear are tendonitis, tendinosis, and tendinopathy.
The suffix “-itis” means inflamed, which can help you remember that tendonitis indicates the tendon is irritated and inflamed. Signs of tendonitis include pain, swelling, warmth, and/or redness. Tendonitis can become chronic if whatever is causing the inflammation is not addressed. But for the most part, it is temporary and curable with a few weeks’ treatment.
Common sports injuries that are the result of tendonitis include:
- Ankle strain
- Extensor tendonitis of the wrist (which commonly affects golfers, rowers, and new moms)
Tendinosis may develop as a result of chronic tendonitis or an acute injury like tendon rupture. It’s a more serious condition; experts use the term to indicate that the structure or composition of the tendon has changed. Tendinosis can be used to describe a tendon that is frayed or torn (ruptured).
Tendinosis can take months to treat, and the damage to the tendon can sometimes be permanent. In the case of tendon ruptures, surgery may be necessary to treat it.
Common tendinosis injuries include:
Much like tendonitis, the word tendinopathy can be decoded by its suffix: “-pathy” means disorder or disease. In short, tendinopathy is often used to describe any problem with the tendon.
However, some doctors will use the term to describe a chronically injured tendon that doesn’t heal, so it’s important to ask for clarification if you’re diagnosed with tendinopathy.
Regardless of what terminology is used to describe them, tendon injuries usually have the same treatment protocol: First, noninvasive approaches such as RICE and NSAID medications, then options such as injections, physical therapy, or surgery may be considered, if needed.