What Causes Tendon Pain?

Tendon pain does not mean that you have a tendon problem (unless you have an actual rip or tear on the tendon).

Doctors like to tell you that tendons hurt because they’re ‘too tight’, or ‘too short’ (and thus eventually want to do surgery) .   Or that the tendons are ‘inflamed’ and that’s the cause of the pain.

But what exactly is causing the inflammation? 

And tendon’s don’t get too tight or too short (they’re more like steel cables than bungee cords).

Tendon Pain Is A Symptom, Not 'The Problem'

Tendon pain is a side effect of a bigger problem...it's just a symptom.

Even though your doctors and PT’s will (usually) focus on the tendon itself as the problem, that’s just not where the REAL problem is at.

Don't blame the tendon.  Blame the CAUSES of tendon pain.

In other words, if your tendon(s) hurt, don't automatically think that you have a tendon problem.  You don't.  The tendon is just where the pain is ending up...it's not the actual cause of the pain.

If your doctor says the cause of the pain is 'inflammation', he'll treat the inflammation....but not the causes of the inflammation (so the treatment probably won't work).

If your doctor says you have a tendon problem (because it hurts), demand that he explain WHAT the problem is, exactly.

And have him explain what CAUSED the problem. (He won't be able to...he'll just blame your age, or your sport, or your job.

Tendon Pain is caused by OTHER factors, not the tendon (unless you have a rip or tear).

This is IMPORTANT to know.  Don't let doctors or PT's tell you you have a tendon problem.  

You do not have a tendon problem!  You have a larger problem that causes painful tendon(s).

If you want to be pain free, this is important to understand.  You want to be fixing the problem, not wasting time trying to fix the tendon.

If a painful tendon is just a symptom, what is the actual cause of the pain?

What Causes Tendon Pain?

Doctors like to say it's due to 'an inflamed tendon' (but never ask WHY it's inflamed), or that it's because the tendon is 'too short' (but never ask WHY or HOW it's too short).

But inflammation doesn't just show up for no reason.

And tendons don't get 'too short' or 'too tight'.  Remeber, they're more like steel cables than bungie cords.  

If your doctor says he wants to 'lengthen' the tendon to relive your pain, go find a different doctor, because that one is clueless.

Tendons don't get 'too short'.  And even if they did, SOMETHING CAUSED IT TO GET TOO SHORT, so a surgery to lengthen the tendon just ignores the REAL cause of the problem.

If you let the surgeon 'lengthen' the tendon by cutting and damaging it, your unlikely to get the results you want (and you're very likely to get results that you don't want....)

So...what causes a tendon to hurt?

Tendon Pain Causes

There are three primary mechanisms that make a tendon hurt.

  1. Tendon Tear or Rip
  2. The Tendonitis Dynamic
  3. Nutritional Insufficiency/Deficiency

Tendon Tear or Rip

If enough force is applied to a poorly functioning mechanism (a muscle structure that is too tight and not able to absorb force like it should), then that force can cause a tendon to partially or completely tear.

This, obviously causes pain (and all sorts of other problem) and usually requires surgery to reattach the torn parts.

What causes a poorly function muscle mechanism?  The Tendonitis Dynamic does.

The Tendonitis Dynamic

Tendonitis is a dynamic.  It is made up of multiple  factors.

This dynamic is also the cause of Tendonosis.

If you have tendon pain, then you have a tendonitis dynamic.

You need to reverse each of the factors causing it.  

If you don't, it's unlikely that the pain will go away.

Nutritional Insufficiency/Deficiency

Nutritional insufficiency is part of the tendonitis dynamic, but let's separate it out a little bit.

The Standard American Diet (and most modern diets, depending on where one lives) are short on various nutrition.

The body needs nutrition, and enough of it.

Muscles need nutrition, and enough of it.

Inflammation eats up nutrition.  Tight muscles eats up nutrition.  Stress (stressors of all kinds) eats up nutrition.  Pain eats up nutrition.

Tendons can hurt if there is a big enough lack of nutrition.  And if lack of nutrition is the cause of the pain...what's the fix?  Not surgery, not injections, not rest, not splints or braces.

The only 'treatment' that can fix pain (tendon or otherwise) from nutritional insufficiency, is repleting that missing nutrition.

Location Specific Tendon Pain

You can get pain in any tendon.

See:  Achilles Tendon Pain

Muscles attach to tendons.  Muscles get tight and pull on those tendons. At some point, this causes pain.

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