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Tendonitis, Sprains and Strains

The human body is an amazing living structure comprised of 75 trillion living cells, especially when considering the built in protective matrix we call “connective tissue”. Connective tissue serves as the structural integrity in every part of your body, connecting everything from your toenails to your brain. It provides your internal vital organs with support and allows bodily fluid transportation. Connective tissue also makes up the material structure of ligaments and tendons.

There is a difference between ligaments and tendons. Basically, ligaments connect and allow movement between two bones. Tendons connect and allow movement between muscles and bones. The material that each of these are made of is fairly similar except that ligaments are made to be stronger yet harder to repair after an injury. Tendons have more elasticity; they are made to stretch with the movement of the muscle.

Tendons are a significant structure in the matrix of the musculoskeletal system. They assist in nearly every movement you make. Even though tendons are very strong connecting structures, they can be injured. When a tendon is injured it can cause pain and an inflammation response is triggered. Although, the tendon is made up of very strong and flexible material it can be stretched beyond its capacity. Depending on the level of stretching it can cause either microscopic tears or full on separation from the muscle or bone.

Tendonitis, or most common known as “tennis elbow”, occurs when a tendon is irritated and has inflammation. Since this can occur to any tendon there are many different names for it. Most of the time it happens to tendons that are associated with common movements, hence the names:

  • Elbow Tendonitis (Tennis elbow or Golfer’s elbow) – pain and inflammation in the inner or outer area of the elbow.
  • Achilles Tendonitis – pain and inflammation above the heel.
  • Adductor Tendonitis – pain and inflammation located in the groin area.
  • Patellar Tendonitis – pain and inflammation right below the knee.
  • Rotator cuff Tendonitis – pain and inflammation in the shoulder.

Sprains & Strains

Sprains are injuries that occur to ligaments. And while the ligament is a hard structure it has a small amount of flexibility. If the ligament is stretched beyond its capability it becomes injured and is referred to as a “sprain”. In areas like the wrist and ankle, there is a more intricate layout of ligament to bone connection as opposed to muscle to bone connection. These areas are prone to sprains. The most common is a “sprained ankle”, and it is said that it is more painful than a broken bone and it takes longer to heal.

Symptoms of a sprain are:

  • Joint immobility
  • Pain and stiffness
  • Heat and inflammation
  • Swelling
  • Discoloration of the skin from blood collecting in the affected area.

The most common way of spraining your ankle is rolling it towards the outside. Depending on the degree that it is stretched or torn determines the length of recovery time. If the healing process is not immediately implemented and the tear is not allowed to heal correctly or completely, there is a very good chance it will occur again. This can eventually lead to a chronic weakening on the injured ankle.

Strains are tears in the muscle; it is also referred to as a “pulled muscle”. Anybody can get a muscle strain, it happens when the muscle is overstretched beyond its capacity. Athletes are more at risk because they use their muscles everyday. However, not using your muscles can also lead to a strain since an under worked muscle becomes weakened. If a sedentary person suddenly exerts themselves, their muscles may not be able to respond to the demand and become overstretched. Strains also have degrees of separation, microscopic tears and even separation from the tendon.

Common signs of strains are:

  • Pain
  • Inflammation
  • Muscle immobility or pain upon movement
  • Swelling
  • Bruising

A very common form of a strain is whiplash. The sudden jerking action that causes whiplash can overstretch and even separate the muscle. As the name implies, whiplash can occur from many different activities not just from rear ended car accidents. Many times the recovery from whiplash is quite extensive. Since serious injuries can occur from even mild forms of whiplash, prompt medical attention is strongly advised. However, if a strain occurs to any muscle you should immediately begin R.I.C.E or:

  • Rest – cease movement.
  • Ice – apply ice to the painful and swollen area.
  • Compression – apply pressure to the swollen area with a semi-tight wrap or your hand.
  • Elevate – if possible elevate the affected area above your heart.

The inflammation and swelling is the body’s response to the injury. Your body is trying to flush the area with blood to begin the repair process. This is a good thing, although too much swelling can cause damage. Placing ice and pressure on the area will decrease the swelling.

Cause

In order for tendons to maintain their stiff or form and protective, yet flexible integrity they need adequate blood supply and stretching. Typically, the causes of tendon injuries are overuse, extreme stretching, aging, and injuries. A common mistake is asking your body to respond to new challenges without preparing the semi-elastic material. Age related tendonitis occurs when the tendon material is not properly nourished and it loses its flexible qualities. Repeated activities are the most common cause of tendonitis. For example, an activity that requires gripping tiny instruments, like a dentist, or a hobby like tennis that requires the player to grip the handle of the tennis racquet and twist their forearm. Injuries like a sprained ankle can cause the inflammation related to a torn ligament.

Treatment

The best course of action immediately following the beginning signs of tendonitis is to cease the repetitive activity. During this time your body is repairing the tear and needs to be left to do its job. After this acute phase, the body can begin recuperation by becoming mobile. Any serious injuries or symptoms should be referred to a medical professional.

After the body is able to complete the healing process, and you have regained complete mobility, it may be wise to seek a manipulative therapy such as; Physical Therapy or Massage Therapy. These modalities can assist in breaking up the scar tissue that has developed, aid in increased microcirculation, and promote increased mobility.

Microcirculation is import for delivering vital nutrients and oxygen to your connective tissue. Maintaining optimal blood circulation will ensure that your tendons will retain their protective and elastic qualities. Due to age and disease, blood vessels can shut down, this may account for lack of sufficient nutrient and oxygen delivery. Promoting a healthy cardiovascular system will head off many unnecessary problems.

Proper hydration is important in connective tissue lubrication. Taking a high-quality daily multi-vitamin with Vitamin E, A, C, selenium, and zinc can be another beneficial preventative measure. It has been recommended by leading medical experts that everyone can benefit from taking a high-quality and complete daily multi-vitamin. Few people actually eat a sufficiently healthy and broad diet to ensure the adequate intake of nutrients for all the biochemical processes necessary to not just sustain the human body but to help it truly thrive.

Summary

Tendonitis is pain and inflammation in the tendon due to a tear or separation. This can occur due to trauma and injury, overuse, and age. Tendons and ligaments are similar in that they both provide movement of the body and protection. Since tendons are made up of slightly different molecules than ligaments they are more flexible. If a tendon is overused or overstretched repetitively than it will cause it to tear and pain and inflammation will follow. The most common form of tendonitis is “tennis elbow”, a pain located on the outside of the elbow. If this type of injury occurs the best procedure is to cease the repetitive motion and let the area repair itself. For sprains and strains, apply the RICE technique. RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. To prevent this from happening you can practice proper hydration, stretch before and after repetitive or athletic activity, promote a healthy cardiovascular system and take a high-quality daily multi-vitamin.

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