When tendons become tight or inflexible, they can affect your movement, causing discomfort, pain and injury. Every muscle in your body is attached to bone by tendons. Thick, fibrous attachments, tendons are continuous with the muscle and connective tissue that surrounds a bone, forming a strong union that allows you to move your body. Understanding the causes of tight tendons can help you to perform your regular activities without pain and can help to prevent injuries.
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Tendon tightness can be caused by injury, posture or even just your anatomy.
Repetitive Use and Tendonitis
Repetitive use or overuse occurs when you perform the same activities day after day. When you do the same movement repeatedly, it can cause stress to your joints and the surrounding tissues, resulting in tight, short tendons.
This can occur in anyone, from athletes and manual laborers to office workers and stay-at-home parents. According to Healthline, performing the repeated motion incorrectly increases your risk of developing pain and inflammation in the affected tendon.
Read more: Tendinitis
Distorted Posture Can Tighten Tendons
Nobody's posture is perfectly balanced in every position. However, some postural distortions, such as a rounded upper back, are very noticeable and can cause more concerns. Incorrect posture over an extended time can lead to shortened muscles, tight tendons, and possibly, altered movement patterns and pain.
Prior Injury Can Alter Movements
When you have injured a tendon, you compensate by altering your movement patterns as you heal to avoid pain and further trauma. These compensations can become habits and can continue even after you have healed. Scar tissue also can form during the healing process, pulling the injured tissue together and shortening it, causing even more tightness and discomfort.
Don't Skip the Stretch
During exercise, you repeatedly contract and relax your muscles and tendons. If you do not take the time to stretch properly before and after exercise, your tendons can remain shorter and less flexible, causing discomfort, pain and increasing your risk of injury.
Proper stretching increases blood flow and removes wastes from muscles and tendons, so it benefits you even if you're not an athlete, according to an article published by Wexner Medical Center at Ohio State University. Before you begin your stretches, it's important to warm up your muscles and tendons with light exercise such as walking or slow jogging.
Aging Leads to Lost Flexibility
As you get older, tendons become less flexible and more prone to injury. Since you can't halt the aging process, maintaining flexibility of your tendons throughout your life is key.
Medical Conditions and Tight Tendons
Certain medical conditions can affect the tendons and their flexibility. These include infection, arthritis, gout, thyroid disease, and diabetes. They can cause pain and inflammation in the whole joint complex, not just the tendon.
Taking certain medications, especially a class of antibiotics known as fluoroquinolones, can lead to weakened tendons and even cause tendon rupture. In June 2016, the Food and Drug Administration expanded warnings and increased restrictions on the use of these antibiotics.
Structural Variations in Tendons
You are unique. Your body is not the same as everyone else's, even though you have the same parts. Your tendons may be positioned slightly differently on the bone and this can change their flexibility and movement patterns. The way your body moves and is structured can contribute to tighter tendons.
- Healthline: What Causes Tendon Inflammation?
- Cleveland Clinic: Musculoskeletal Pain
- Food and Drug Administration: FDA Updates Warnings for Fluoroquinolone Antibiotics
- Ohio State University: Wexner Medical Center: Why Stretching Is More Important Than You Think
- International Journal of Sports Physiotheraphy: Current Concepts in Muscle Stretching for Exercise and Rehabilitation
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.