What Are the Treatments for a Torn Tendon?

Woman lying while being massaged by her practitioner
A woman in a rehabilitation session. (Image: Wavebreakmedia Ltd/Wavebreak Media/Getty Images)

Because the tendons of the human body connect active muscle tissue to passive bone, they act as shock absorbers that sometimes tear from too much wear. Either a pulled muscle or a tendon strain itself can cause tendon fibers to tear. Among the areas vulnerable to tendon problems are the rotator cuff of the shoulder and the Achilles tendon of the foot. The treatments for a torn tendon depend on individual pain thresholds and tissue repair rates, as well as the extent of the damage.

Rest and Protection

A torn tendon will hurt when it moves or when weight or force is placed on it. The Mayo Clinic reports a variety of immobilization treatments that reduce tendon strain and offer pain relief. Resting to the degree that creates the least pain should come first, whether it is full bed rest, a suspension of athletic workouts or restriction of daily activities.

Inflammation around a tissue tear may increase when blood flow increases during movement. Supporting the pulled muscle and tendon area with a compression bandage, sling, splint, crutches, cane or another aid will cut down on the swelling and make moving and getting around easier.

Pain Relief

As soon as symptoms of a tendon strain develop, first aid pain relief should accompany rest treatment. Reusable chilled gel packs make convenient cold compresses for pulled muscles and tendons in the foot, leg, back, rib cage, shoulders, arms and neck.

The University of Buffalo Sports Medicine group suggests at least three ice treatments of up to 30 minutes per day while swelling is present. This can be used to supplement drug therapy for a torn tendon because short-term medications such as ibuprofen, aspirin and naproxen may need to be curtailed before the pain fully disappears.

Physical Therapy

Treatments to mend a torn tendon include restoring the tissue’s strength, flexibility and endurance. Physical therapy should start with gentle stretches of the pulled muscle and tendon area, followed by a gradual re-establishment of the patient’s usual exercise routine. The Mayo Clinic notes that a doctor or physical therapist can set safety boundaries and fitness goals for individual patients.

Surgical Treatment

Tendon strains that result in complete separation of muscle and joint or bone may need surgical operations to repair the tissue. The University of Buffalo Sports Medicine group reports that arthroscopic surgery can address some tissue displacement or ruptures. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, however, extensive damage that involves bone spurs, joint fractures or other extenuating circumstances may require open surgery.

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