Tendinopathy and tendonitis frequently are confused, but they are separate conditions, both affecting tendons. Tendons connect bone to muscle and are made of fibrous tissues. There are many tendons all over the body and all are susceptible to tears and inflammation. While tendonitis means tendon pain, especially tendon inflammation, tendinopathy is tendon disease or disorder. Tendinopathy has been historically difficult to treat, and even when successfully treated, often has a high chance of recurring.
The diagnosis of tendinopathy refers to a tendon injury that fails to heal. Unlike tendonitis, where inflammation is generally involved, tendinopathy has little inflammation present. This means that traditional treatment of tendon inflammation does not work on patients with tendinopathy.
Tendinopathy may happen in several areas of the body including the shoulder (rotator cuff), elbow (tennis/golfer’s elbow), hip/groin area (gluteus medius), knee (patellar tendon), foot and ankle (Achilles and tibialis posterior tendon). These are the primary areas that are affected.
Tendinopathy often results from tendon overuse and an imbalance between protective changes and pathological responses. There are several approaches to address this condition including exercise, ice, simple analgesics, and anti-inflammatory medicine. Though NSAIDs and physical therapy have been used to treat this condition, corticosteroid injections are primarily used to treat it. There is usually no quick fix to this condition and a maintenance program must be practiced after treatment.