Tendonitis VS Tendinosis: What’s the Difference?

Tendonitis vs tendinosis, they may sound similar, but their root causes and treatments are very different. Both conditions can cause pain, have some similar symptoms, and are often confused with each other by non-doctors.

Tendonitis vs Tendinosis

Duration is one of the key differences between the two. Tendonitis is a sudden, short-term pain, which is often related to an injury to the tendon. Oftentimes, the cause of the condition isn’t able to be identified, while others, such as tennis players, will develop tennis elbow, or tendinitis in the elbow.

tendonitis vs tendinosis what is the difference middle aged woman wearing white striped jumper in a tennis stance with a racket in her hand

Tendinosis is persistent and recurring. Instead of being caused by a one-off injury, the condition is caused by chronic damage, which has led to the tendon becoming:

  • Hard
  • Thick
  • Scarred

Disorganized fibers exist and permanent damage is sustained. Degeneration occurs, with tendinosis leading to the chronic pain people experience.

Tendonitis Symptoms

  • Tendon pain that worsens when you move
  • Difficulty when moving the impacted joint
  • Swelling, redness, or “heat” near the tendon
  • A crackling or grating feeling when the tendon is moved

Pain is often intermittent and will subside in a few minutes.

Tendinosis Symptoms 

  • Joint stiffness
  • Swelling and burning pain around the tendon
  • Difficulty moving the impacted joint
  • Pain worsens throughout certain activities

The symptoms of tendinitis and tendinosis are very similar, but tendinosis pain will persist for months. Since the condition causes scarring, thickening, and hardening of the tendons, it will lead to loss of joint flexibility and range of motion if not cared for properly.

If the pain occurs during an accident, seek a doctor’s advice. Pain that is severe and sudden may be an indication of a ruptured tendon, which will require immediate medical attention. Symptoms that persist or worsen over the course of a few weeks are also a sign that medical attention may be necessary.

Traditional and alternative forms of treatment are available and can be used in conjunction to alleviate symptoms.

Treatment Options for Tendonitis vs Tendinosis

tendonitis vs tendinosis what is the difference man sitting on flower print arm chair with foot elevated in a boot for tendonitis working on a laptop crutches beside him

Treatments for both revolve around stopping inflammation or stopping the degeneration from progressing. Over a four-to-six-week period, standard treatments include:

  • Rest
  • Anti-inflammatory over-the-counter medications, such as ibuprofen
  • Straps or braces, especially for tennis elbow
  • Avoid repetitive motions
  • Stretching the tendon daily to help encourage circulation to the area and improve and/or maintain range of motion
  • Strengthening exercises of the muscles surrounding the tendon may help reduce strain on the tendon 

Herbal supplements have been used with some level of efficacy to help reduce swelling and pain. A few of the supplements that have the most potency are:

  • White Willow: Known as being a potent, natural ingredient for fighting inflammation and alleviating pain, white willow offers the same benefits of an NSAID without the potential side effects. Studies show the anti-inflammatory benefits are produced with minimal adverse side effects.
  • Turmeric: The curcumin in turmeric is what provides the beneficial effects of the spice. Anti-inflammatory properties have been well-documented in studies, but an interesting study of note was conducted on rats. The study showed that curcumin was able to help fully heal injuries to the Achilles tendon.
  • Bromelain: An enzyme that is potent in pineapples. Bromelain is known for having anti-inflammatory properties and is being studied on its impact on tendinopathies.

DMSO is often experimented with by tendonitis and tendinosis sufferers because of the ingredient’s ability to amplify the effects of other ingredients. When used with an anti-inflammatory, DMSO may help speed up delivery and amplify the benefits of these ingredients.

If your symptoms persist, do not delay treatment. Traditional forms of treatment often begin with rest followed by pain relievers, corticosteroids, or platelet-rich plasma. Physical therapy may be recommended, and surgery may be recommended when the tendon injury is severe, and the tendon has torn from the bone.

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