Tendon injuries

Tendons transfer the force of the muscles to the bone and move the joints. Damage to tendons can be caused by excess strain or by injury; sudden movements can cause sprains or even tears to tendon fibres, for example. Since tendons are generally very stable, tears usually occur to tendons that have been damaged in the past.

Tendon or tendon sheath inflammations (tendinitis or tenosynovitis), for example, weaken the tissue and increase the risk of tendon tears. As a result, when treating these types of injury the cause must always be determined in order to treat that too - for example with anti-inflammatory medications.

Schematic diagram of tendon injuries

Symptoms

Tendon sprains are generally characterised by pain when moving the joint. Tendon tears are usually characterised by a sudden, stabbing pain. Often, patients also feel a "snap" and are no longer able to actively move the affected joint.

Treatment

In many cases of tendon injury, conservative therapies such as the application of heat or cold and anti-inflammatory medications will alleviate the symptoms.

In cases of chronic inflammation, such as in the wrist area, the inflamed tendon sheath needs to be removed. If the ends of the tendon lie close enough to each other, we can usually treat the condition without resorting to surgery. In most cases, resting the adjacent joints to allow the tendons to knit back together again is all that's required.

If the ends of an injured tendon are too far apart, surgical repair must be performed, such as tendon suturing or - rarely - tendon transplant.