Tendons connect muscles to bones. They are located in joints such as the knee, elbow, ankle and shoulder. You can strain a tendon from heavy lifting or repetitive movement used on a job. After a tendon is strained, inflammation and pain set in and treatment is required. These treatments can include topical applications, medication and even exercise and massage. A combination of these methods is usually the most effective way for treating tendon strains.
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Rest, Ice and Heat
Rest and ice are typically recommended immediately after someone strains a tendon. Any physical activity can aggravate and exacerbate the injury. Ice causes vasoconstriction, which temporarily limits blood flow and fluids to the affected area, minimising the swelling and pain. Most doctors recommend ice for the first 48 hours you strain a tendon. Ice packs can be used to apply ice directly to the injured area. It is also best to elevate the strained tendon above the heart as well. This also minimises the flow of blood to the area. Heat is often recommended after the swelling subsides.
Ibuprofen and other anti-inflammatory medications (e.g.,. naproxen) are also effective for tendon strains because they help reduce swelling and alleviate pain. Anti-inflammatory medications work by inhibiting an enzyme called cyclooxygenase (COX). This reduces prostaglandin synthesis, which regulates pain caused by the body's natural response to injuries. Ointments such as Bengay may also be affective in treating strained tendons. Doctors may even prescribe steroids for more serious tendon strains and tendinitis (inflammation in the tendon).
Once the initial swelling goes down, certain stretching and resistance exercises can help heal strained tendons. Tendons can tighten from a lack of use and as people age. Stretching the muscles and tendons can promote blood flow, which transfers nutrients and medications to the affected area. Resistance exercise such as light weightlifting can also foster the healing process, but only if it does not increase pain and aggravate the injury.
Some people use massage therapy for treating strained tendons. Massage can help reduce tension in the tendon, eliminate kinks that cause tightness and promote blood flow to the area. Massage is usually not recommended within the first 48 hours as swelling must be controlled. Physical therapists can also help treat strained tendons. They understand certain movements and positions that can promote the healing process. Physical therapists often incorporate exercises, too
There is no set time frame for overcoming tendon strains. A person's recovery is contingent upon the location of the strain, its severity and the efforts put into treating it. Proper treatment can dramatically shorten the recovery period.
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