What Are the Symptoms of Torn Tendons?

Tendons are tough, fibrous tissues that connect your muscles to the bones within your body. If a tendon is overused or overstretched during physical activity, the tendon can tear--a condition known as a ruptured tendon. Contact your doctor for further evaluation if you develop symptoms of torn tendons.

If a tendon is overused or overstretched during physical activity, the tendon can tear. Credit: lzf/iStock/Getty Images

Pain

The most common symptom of torn tendons is pain. When you tear a tendon, you can experience sharp, sudden pain that may be accompanied by a popping or snapping sound. Symptoms of pain can vary in severity from mild to severe and can significantly interfere with your ability to move the affected limb or muscle. Certain people also experience painful cramping--prolonged, involuntary muscle contractions--in the affected muscle.

Swelling and Bruising

Tearing or damage to a tendon can cause severe inflammation at the site of injury. If this occurs, you can develop significant swelling of the skin near the ruptured tendon. Your skin can appear red, irritated or puffy due to swelling, which can contribute to pain. A torn tendon can also cause bruising. As your tendon begins to heal, these symptoms will progressively subside.

Weakness

A tendon tear causes the separation of the affected muscle from the bone. This can prevent your muscle from contracting and relaxing as usual and can contribute to significant muscle weakness. If you have a torn tendon, you may have difficulty placing weight on the affected limb, which may lead to difficulties walking or lifting certain objects. Muscle weakness due to a tendon tear can also interfere with your ability to twist or turn the affected body region.

Muscle Bulging

If you completely sever a tendon, it can no longer hold your muscle tight against the bone. When this occurs, the muscle can retract away from the bone, leading to the formation of a bulge beneath your skin. This can cause the affected limb to appear malformed or dented.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
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