Tendinitis and tendinopathies affect the tendons, which are the fibrous tissues at the ends of a muscle that attach to a bone. All tendons can be impaired, so the term tendinitis is often preceded by the name of the injured tendon or muscle at stake. Underlying differences exist between a tendonitis and a tendinopathy, though, and they’ll be presented throughout this text.
A tendinitis is the inflammation of a tendon being overused on a short period of time. It’s usually accompanied by lower articular range, muscular imbalance or inadequate form during the activity. For instance, an amateur runner would suffer from a tendinitis (Achilles tendon) if the frequency and intensity in his trainings are too high to begin with. A burning or stretching sensation would occur when contracting and expanding the muscle, say in the morning and after the triggering activity. Even though icing the tendon locally can help in relieving pain, scientific evidence show that it doesn’t really help in healing the tendon. An active recovery, with progressive exercises in mobility and strength, would be much more effective than a complete stop with ice and anti-inflammatories.
A tendinopathy is different from a tendinitis due to the fact that it’s not inflammatory. It’s rather a long-term and more severe overuse of a tendon that can set in if the tendonitis becomes chronic or simply by misuse of the tendon over time. In that case, the tendon would change, and its fibres would lose their optimal alignment. For instance, a shoulder cuff tendinopathy, also known as shoulder tendinitis, is due to the overuse of these tendons throughout the years and is usually combined with bad posture and the impingement syndrome. In this type of injury, the tendons would’ve been overworked while being stuck between the shoulder blade and the humerus, resulting in more stress and damage. The degeneracy of a tendon can lead to small tears and eventually to a total rupture of the tissue.
The treatment of a tendinopathy consists of pain management and the correction of the movements causing the overuse of the tendon. Therefore, it’s important to work on the mobility and biomechanics of the articulations at stake as well as improving muscle strength, motor control and the tendon’s resistance with specific exercises. For instance, for the shoulder, the correction of the posture and movements like raising the arms in the air would allow reducing the stress on the alleged tendons. When combined with specific exercises to better control the shoulder blade and strengthen the rotator cuff, the pain would decrease significantly without the need of taking painkillers. In addition, all activities that involve holding an object in the air or lifting a load would be much easier.