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Tendinopathy is a topic covered in the 5-Minute Clinical Consult.

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  • Clinical syndrome characterized by tendon thickening and chronic, localized tendon pain
  • System(s) affected: musculoskeletal
  • The term tendinopathy has replaced the term tendinitis as a generic descriptor of clinical conditions associated with pain, swelling, and impaired performance in and around tendons, arising from overuse. Tendinitis and tendinosis are histologic diagnoses (1). Enthesopathy is a change in the normal tissue architecture at the tendon–bone interface.
  • Tendinopathies can be pathologically classified as:
    • Tendinitis: acute inflammation of the tendon
    • Tendinosis: chronic degeneration of the tendon; also can be related to partial tendon rupture
    • Tenosynovitis: inflammation of the tendon sheath
  • Common sites of overuse tendon injuries include
    • Knee: jumper knee (patellar tendon)
    • Shoulder: rotator cuff tendons
    • Ankle: Achilles and posterior tibialis tendons
    • Hip: hamstring tendons
    • Elbow: lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow) that is extensor tendons; medial epicondylitis (golfer’s elbow) that is flexor tendons and triceps (2)


  • Tendinopathy more common in athletes or active people especially in age group >35 years old
  • Aging tendons are less able to absorb energy, predisposing to injury.
  • Major risk factors for tendinopathy include age, load on tendon, and biomechanical abnormalities.
  • Gender influences incidence of specific tendinopathies, likely related to biomechanical factors. Example: patellar tendinopathy 5 times more common in males than female jumping athletes; rotator cuff and lateral epicondylitis tendinopathy equal for males and females
  • Genetics may play a role in development of tendinopathy.

Pediatric Considerations
Tendon is more stable than the epiphyseal plate in children. Consider growth plate avulsion fractures following trauma in children (2). Tendinopathy is uncommon in children with open growth plates.

Common outpatient musculoskeletal complaint

Etiology and Pathophysiology

  • Increased repetitive stress on the tendon increases risk of injury.
  • Exact causes are theoretical (3).
  • Overuse injuries involve incomplete and disorganized tendon and soft tissue repair mechanisms. This results in a susceptible tendon lacking strength and extracellular tissue organization (1).
  • Acute tendon injury has triphasic healing response of inflammation, proliferation, and maturation.

Risk Factors

  • Extrinsic factors
    • Training errors (most common)
    • Improper footwear/equipment (next most common)
    • Hard or irregular training surfaces
    • Environmental conditions
  • Intrinsic factors
    • Malalignment
    • Limb length discrepancy
    • Muscular imbalance
    • Muscular insufficiency

General Prevention

Preparticipation screening to identify patients at risk for injury, warm-up sessions, core and supporting muscle strengthening, safe activity environment, protective equipment using appropriate braces/taping, and health education have all been shown to prevent injury.

Commonly Associated Conditions

  • Bursitis (common)
  • Arthritis
  • Apophysitis

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Stephens, Mark B., et al., editors. "Tendinopathy." 5-Minute Clinical Consult, 27th ed., Wolters Kluwer, 2019. Medicine Central, im.unboundmedicine.com/medicine/view/5-Minute-Clinical-Consult/816065/all/Tendinopathy.
Tendinopathy. In: Stephens MB, Golding J, Baldor RA, et al, eds. 5-Minute Clinical Consult. 27th ed. Wolters Kluwer; 2019. https://im.unboundmedicine.com/medicine/view/5-Minute-Clinical-Consult/816065/all/Tendinopathy. Accessed April 24, 2019.
Tendinopathy. (2019). In Stephens, M. B., Golding, J., Baldor, R. A., & Domino, F. J. (Eds.), 5-Minute Clinical Consult. Available from https://im.unboundmedicine.com/medicine/view/5-Minute-Clinical-Consult/816065/all/Tendinopathy
Tendinopathy [Internet]. In: Stephens MB, Golding J, Baldor RA, Domino FJ, editors. 5-Minute Clinical Consult. Wolters Kluwer; 2019. [cited 2019 April 24]. Available from: https://im.unboundmedicine.com/medicine/view/5-Minute-Clinical-Consult/816065/all/Tendinopathy.
* Article titles in AMA citation format should be in sentence-case
TY - ELEC T1 - Tendinopathy ID - 816065 ED - Stephens,Mark B, ED - Golding,Jeremy, ED - Baldor,Robert A, ED - Domino,Frank J, BT - 5-Minute Clinical Consult, Updating UR - https://im.unboundmedicine.com/medicine/view/5-Minute-Clinical-Consult/816065/all/Tendinopathy PB - Wolters Kluwer ET - 27 DB - Medicine Central DP - Unbound Medicine ER -