How do I Treat a Strained Tendon?

Dan Cavallari

Tendons are tissues that connect muscles to bones, and they can become strained when overused or overstretched. A strained tendon will cause pain in the affected area, as well as weakness, swelling, and general discomfort. Treatment is not difficult, but it requires patience, as the tendon can take several days or even weeks to heal fully. The first steps involved in treating a strained tendon include the RICE treatment; RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. If pain persists after such treatment, you may consult a doctor who can in turn prescribe painkilling medications or anti-inflammatory medications to help reduce swelling.

An ice pack, which can help with pain from a strained tendon.
An ice pack, which can help with pain from a strained tendon.

Resting the strained tendon is the key to the treatment process. The tendons will heal themselves in most cases, so resting the injured area allows that natural healing to occur. Exercising or otherwise putting a load on the tendon too quickly can risk re-injury or exacerbation of the current injury. The injured area should be elevated if possible to help reduce swelling, and compression bandages can be used to help keep swelling down as well. Icing the injury shortly after it occurs can help keep swelling down and reduce pain significantly. These steps may be necessary for several days or weeks, depending on the severity of the injury.

Compression bandages are often used on strains.
Compression bandages are often used on strains.

Once the strained tendon has healed sufficiently, you can begin doing light stretching exercises to ensure the tendons do not tighten up too much. Tight tendons are more likely to strain and tear, so ensuring the tendons are conditioned and stretched properly can help prevent future injuries. Exercising regularly can also help strengthen the tendons and the muscles; stronger muscles are less likely to tire quickly, and when muscles tire, they tend to tighten. Tight muscles are more at risk for injury, so regular exercise can help prevent injuries to tendons and muscles in the future.

Applying an ice pack to the wrist after a tendon injury can help reduce swelling.
Applying an ice pack to the wrist after a tendon injury can help reduce swelling.

If the pain associated with the strained tendon is persistent, contact a doctor. The doctor may prescribe painkilling medications or anti-inflammatory medications to help alleviate the pain, and if the pain still persists, the doctor may recommend further action. In very extreme cases, a doctor may recommend surgery to repair a damaged tendon, though this course of action is generally reserved for only the most severe injuries and is not recommended for most injuries because surgery may or may not actually fix the problem. It can, in fact, cause other problems and prolong the recovery time significantly.

Resting the stained tendon is a crucial part of the healing process.
Resting the stained tendon is a crucial part of the healing process.
Once the tendon has healed, the patient can begin light stretching exercises.
Once the tendon has healed, the patient can begin light stretching exercises.

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Discussion Comments

SarahGen

@burcidi-- I have done that before and my only advise is rest, rest and rest. How long it takes to heal depends on how badly strained it is and how active you are. Unfortunately, an achilles tendon strain doesn't heal very quickly if the tendon is continued to be used. So you need to stay away from hiking, sports and exercise for a while. Try and sit with your leg up if possible.

When I strained my achilles, I even avoided stretching for the first few weeks. If you want to stretch, make sure to do it very gently. Mine healed completely and I was back to my regular routine after a month. But I've heard of cases that took a lot longer and required physical therapy, massage and the use of a brace.

burcidi

I strained my achilles tendon last week while hiking. It was very difficult getting back home, and I went to the doctor as soon as possible. My doctor said to just rest and do some light stretching if it's not painful. I have been doing this, but my leg is still very stiff and painful.

Has anyone ever strained an achilles tendon? How long did it take for it to heal? Did you do anything in addition to what I'm doing?

bluedolphin

What's the difference between a strained tendon and tendinitis? Are the treatments for these different?

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