Tendonitis, or an inflammation and degradation of the tendon, happens to every third athlete (dedicated lifters included) due to overuse of the tendons during repetitive physical activity. In other words, constant and repetitive motion that pulls on the tendons eventually tightens them and makes them susceptible to microscopic tearing.
At the first sign of serious pain, athletes try to ease their mind with some popular quick fixes – taking some time off the gym or the favorite running route, form improvements, longer warm-ups and massages. But in most cases, the issue progresses and soon enough, you’re not able to move your legs without your tendons hurting like hell and stretches can’t relieve the pain anymore. And that’s when you understand the potential severity of this ailment and start searching for ways to heal. If you think you’ve tried it all and nothing really works, read the rest of this article to learn a few sure-fire methods for treating tendonitis that you probably didn’t know before.
Tendonitis usually refers to an inflammation of the tendon, which is often accompanied by a breakdown of the tissue. In official medical terminology, ‘tendonitis’ is the term used to describe a case of inflammation only, while the term ‘tendinosis’ includes the degradation of the collagen fibers within the tendon without the presence of inflammatory cells. And finally, the general term ‘tendinopathy’ combines both of them and refers to a disease of the tendon. Tendon pain can occur in any part of the body, but it’s most common in the Achilles, patellar, elbow and shoulder tendons.
The common sense approach of getting plenty of rest and icing the hurting tendon is effective only in cases of inflammation without any further damage of the tissue. In cases of a broken tendon that needs to be remodeled and strengthened, icing, anti-inflammatories and pain-killers don’t really solve the problem which can get worse over time. In fact, it’s best not to use anti-inflammatories at all because they obstruct the healing process – inflammation is the body’s attempt at self-protection and removing harmful stimuli, irritants, pathogens and damaged cells. In short, inflammation is a necessary part of the recovery process. To enable proper recovery, you must address the core issue instead of the symptoms on the surface, and this can be done only by remodeling, stabilizing and strengthening of the given tendon. It’s worth noting that typically, tendons heal by going through an inflammatory (1-7 days of injury), proliferative (7-21 days) and remodeling (3 weeks to 1 year) phase. Let’s take a look at two highly effective ways to help your tendons heal the right way:
#1. Cell stimulation
These techniques work by telling your brain that your tendon is in distress and needs some extra attention. The two most commonly used and simplest of them are:
- Voodoo Flossing – Voodoo flossing helps break up intramuscular junk in order to allow for greater blood supply to an area, which then results with improved mobility. It’s done by squeezing the muscle in a very tight wrap and then forcing it through a full range of motion (on basic movements) for about two minutes. By doing this, the created friction between muscle fibers helps break up scar tissue, dead cells, lactic acid and similar junk in the tiny places that foam rolling can’t reach. The strong elastic compression will also take some tension out of some areas of the fascia and significantly change the neural input by altering the mechanical transmission of the fascial system. After you release the band, a rush of blood will enter the muscle, bringing nutrients crucial for healing and clearing out all the junk that just got broken up.
- Gua Sha – Gua Sha translates directly from Chinese as “to scrape away fever”, and it’s a very convenient tool for increasing blood flow and enhancing cell activity in a hurt tendon. However, you won’t have to find a witch doctor from a Chinese village to get this treatment – all you need to do is order a Gua Sha tool online together with a jar of cocoa butter. Performing the Gua Sha treatment involves taking the Gua Sha tool (or a regular spoon) and repeatedly rubbing or scraping the skin over the sore area with it. This will stimulate greater blood flow, thus eliminating the pain and soreness.
#2. Slow tempo strength exercises
Many studies have shown that certain types of exercises and stretches can help you regain functionality and relieve chronic tendonitis pain, as long as you remain careful and try to progress gradually. Since one of the most common ways the tendon gets broken down is by applying too much load or too much speed on it, you should use slow tempo exercises when treating it. Best results can be achieved by performing slow eccentric-only strength training protocols or heavy and slow concentric/eccentric strength training protocols. An eccentric muscle contraction is generated when the fibers of the given muscle lengthen as they lower a load, which is often referred to as the down phase of the movement.
A study in the Journal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery found that six weeks of eccentric exercise improved strength and reduced pain and disability in people with chronic elbow tendonitis better than traditional treatments such as icing, stretching and massage, while another study found that eccentric strength training significantly reduced the symptoms of Achilles tendonitis and tendonopathy of the knee. Keep in mind that it’s normal to experience a certain degree of soreness and pain while performing eccentric exercise as a remedy for chronic tendon injuries, and with regular daily performance, the pain should dissipate after about 10 weeks of training. However, if the pain is sharp and persists long after you finish your workout, take that as a sign to take things a bit slower.
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