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Tendonitis or Tendinopathy: What's the Difference and What Is It?

person pointing to Achilles tendon

Have you ever experienced pain or discomfort in a tendon? You may have heard terms like tendonitis or tendinopathy, but what do they really mean? In this blog post, we'll dive into the world of tendon health, explore the difference between tendonitis and tendinopathy, and shed light on how physical therapy can help you find relief and get back to doing what you love.

First, let's understand what tendons are.

Tendons are strong, fibrous connective tissues that attach muscles to bones. They play a crucial role in transmitting forces from muscles to bones, allowing us to move and perform various activities. Despite their strength, tendons can become injured or damaged due to repetitive stress, overuse, or sudden trauma.

So, what's the difference between tendonitis and tendinopathy?

Tendonitis refers to the inflammation of a tendon. When a tendon is subjected to excessive stress or repetitive motion, it can become inflamed, causing pain, swelling, and tenderness in the affected area. Tendonitis often occurs as a result of activities like running, jumping, or repetitive motions involved in sports or work. This is usually a more acute injury.

On the other hand, tendinopathy is a broader term that encompasses both inflammation and degeneration of a tendon. Tendinopathy is often considered a chronic condition, where the tendon undergoes structural changes and becomes less resilient. It can cause persistent pain, stiffness, and weakness, impacting your ability to perform daily activities or participate in sports.

Now that we understand the difference between tendonitis and tendinopathy, let's explore how physical therapy can help.

Physical therapy plays a crucial role in the management and rehabilitation of tendon injuries. A physical therapist will assess your condition, identify the underlying causes of your tendon pain, and develop a personalized treatment plan. The goal of physical therapy is to reduce pain, promote healing, and restore normal function.

Treatment for tendonitis or tendinopathy may include a combination of the following:

1. Rest and Activity Modification: Your physical therapist will guide you on modifying activities that exacerbate your symptoms, giving your tendon time to heal.

2. Pain Management: Various techniques, such as ice therapy, therapeutic modalities, and manual therapy, can help alleviate pain and reduce inflammation.

3. Exercise and Strengthening: Your physical therapist will prescribe specific exercises to gradually strengthen the tendon and surrounding muscles, promoting healing and improving overall function.

4. Biomechanical Analysis and Correction: Your physical therapist will assess your movement patterns and identify any biomechanical factors contributing to your tendon pain. They can then provide guidance on proper body mechanics and suggest modifications to prevent future injury.

5. Gradual Return to Activity: Once your tendon has healed and you've regained strength and mobility, your physical therapist will guide you through a gradual return to your desired activities or sports, ensuring a safe and sustainable transition.

Remember, seeking early intervention and appropriate treatment is key to managing tendonitis or tendinopathy effectively. Don't let tendon pain hold you back from doing the things you love. Consult with a qualified physical therapist, like those at Nashville Physical Therapy & Performance, who specialize in tendon rehabilitation and can guide you on your journey to recovery.

Take care of your tendons, and they'll take care of you. Trust the expertise of one of our physical therapists to help you overcome tendonitis or tendinopathy and get you back to an active, pain-free lifestyle.


1. Khan KM, Cook JL, Bonar F, Harcourt P, Astrom M. Histopathology of common tendinopathies. Update and implications for clinical management. Sports Med. 1999;27(6):393-408.

2. Malliaras P, Cook J. Patellar tendons with normal imaging and pain: change in imaging and pain status over a volleyball season. Clin J Sport Med. 2006;16(5):388-391.

3. Khan KM, Bonar F, Desmond PM, et al. Patellar tendinosis (jumper's knee): findings at histopathologic examination, US, and MR imaging. Victorian Institute of Sport Tendon Study Group. Radiology. 1996;200(3):821-827.

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