I am not an athlete and I'm heading toward middle age (I'm 43 years old) but I seem to have developed the kind of tendon problems athletes deal with. In fact, the doctor calls it tendinopathy, which is the same term I've heard applied to some of my favorite athletes. How does a guy like me get a problem like this?
Tendinopathy is a term used to describe a collection of symptoms such as pain, swelling, and impaired movement. The cause may not be an athletic injury but it is usually associated with overuse or repetitive motions. The everyday, average adult like yourself who develops these symptoms should take a look at your daily household or work activities. Perhaps there are some activities or actions you repeat more often than you realize that could contribute to this problem.
There's another consideration in middle-aged and older adults that has nothing to do with overuse, repetitive motion, trauma, or athletic activities. And that is a medical condition that affects tendons. such as diabetes, medications, or even high cholesterol and atherosclerosis. Since you are seeing a physician for this problem, you can always ask if any of these could be contributing factors in your case.
If there is not an underlying medical problem, then treatment can be as simple as activity modification and an exercise program for you. Studies show that eccentric exercise has the ability to enhance tendon repair. During an eccentric muscle contraction, the muscle and its tendon starts in a shortened position and then lengthen as the body part moves.
A daily program over a period of six weeks' time results in good outcomes with pain relief, improved function, and without adverse effects. Though time-consuming this exercise approach can be successful. When supervised by a physical therapist, motivation and compliance improve. The risk of reinjury is also less.
Heavy, slow eccentric load may work better than static stretching or fast eccentric load. Combining static stretching with slow eccentric movements has been shown to be very helpful in a few studies. More studies are needed to pinpoint the most effective way to introduce and progress eccentric exercise. But for now, the research consistently shows the positive benefit of exercise as a first-line of treatment for tendinopathy.
Paul W. Ackermann, MD, PhD, and Per Renström, MD, PhD. Tendinopathy in Sport. In Sports Health. May/June 2012. Vol. 4. No. 3. Pp. 193-201.