Tendon problems are very common in physiotherapy – you might have heard of them as Rotator Cuff Tears, Gluteal Tendinopathy, Achilles Tendinitis or Tennis Elbow.  All of these problems involve tendons that are either injured, swollen or sore, and in all cases these tendons are not working properly.  Recovery from a sore or injured tendon takes time – what you thought might be a “few weeks” of exercises and physio can sometimes turn out to be 3 months or more.  So what are the key things you need to know and do to take care of your tendons?  In this article we give you our top 5 tendon tips, based on our team’s combined experience over more than 20 years of treating painful tendons:

  • Get an accurate diagnosis: Tendon problems are managed differently to muscle, nerve and joint pain, so the first step is to know whether you have a tendon problem.  You can’t just guess here!  Just because your neighbour has an ultrasound showing he or she has a rotator cuff tear in their shoulder and their pain sounds similar to yours doesn’t mean you also have a rotator cuff tear!  You need a clear diagnosis based on your history, how your symptoms behave, a good physical examination and sometimes imaging.  Make an appointment to see someone you trust, whether that is your GP, physiotherapist or other health professional.
  • Get serious about solving your tendon problem: Tendons must be treated with respect and they don’t forgive lazy patients (sorry, but it’s the truth).  If you have achilles tendon pain, get serious about wearing the right footwear for your foot type.  If you have Gluteal Tendon pain, get serious about using a pillow between your knees at night when sleeping.  If you have Tennis Elbow, get serious about using a good elbow support for upper limb activities.  And for ALL tendon problems, you must get serious about your daily tendon exercises!
  •  Know your limits: Tendon problems affect your ability to DO things.  For most patients, you will be able to do some activities but not others.  You may be able to cycle with achilles tendon pain but not run; you may be able to walk with gluteal tendon pain but not up or down hills; and you may be able to use secateurs with tennis elbow but not pruning shears.  You need to work out which activities you can and cannot do with your tendon problem and respect the ones you cannot (for the moment).
  • Focus on improving strength:  Most tendon problems need progressive strengthening exercises over several months to restore normal movement and function.  If you are doing the right exercises for your tendon you should see and feel improvement over time.  A rough rule of thumb is that patients should demonstrate improvement in their exercise every fortnight, which then paves the way for them to move on to a more challenging exercise.  If you have been doing an exercise (or series of exercises) for a month or more without any noticeable improvement, it’s time for a change.
  • Think Medium Term:  As mentioned in the introduction, tendons take time to get better – you are not going to be back to your normal activities after 2 weeks of physio.  You need to take at least a medium term view of things and set a goal for 2 or 3 months time.  Writing your goal down and having it somewhere visible where it will act as a reminder helps to keep you motivated and consistent with your exercise program and physiotherapy appointments.

So there are our Top Five tendon tips – hopefully this helps you wherever you are with your tendon troubles.  Of course, there is more to it than just following these top five tips, but following these is a solid start to reducing your pain and getting back towards normal.  If you are after more help with your tendon troubles, here’s two things you can do:

  1. Call our helpful front desk team today, on 6056 6616, and make an appointment to see a qualified, experienced physiotherapist.  We will find a day and time that works for you to come in for an initial appointment, where we will help you to work out if you do have a tendon problem and whether physiotherapy can help you.
  2. If you’re unsure if physiotherapy is the right thing for you, send me an email: nathan@personalbestphysio.com.au and tell me a little about what’s going on for you.  I’ll reply with some helpful advice within 2 business days.

To Your Better Health

Nathan and the team at Personal Best Physiotherapy