Tendon Injuries and Lacerations

Tendons are strong, fibrous tissues that connect muscles to bones, allowing us to move our joints. When these vital connectors suffer an injury, it can significantly impact our ability to perform daily activities. Tendons can become injured through various mechanisms, including trauma or impact, such as a deep cut or a fall, overuse or repetitive strain, poor body mechanics, age-related degeneration, inflammatory conditions, failing to “warm up” properly before physical activity, and weak or imbalanced muscles. The most common indications of a tendon injury include pain, swelling, or difficulty moving a joint. If left untreated, tendon injuries can lead to decreased mobility and chronic pain.

Types of Tendon Injuries

Tendon injuries come in various forms, each affecting different parts of the body's upper extremities. Understanding these distinctions is crucial for accurate diagnosis and effective treatment.

Flexor Tendon Injuries

Flexor tendons are responsible for bending the fingers and thumb. When injured, individuals may experience difficulty making a fist or bringing fingers close together. 

 Extensor Tendon Injuries

Conversely, extensor tendons enable the straightening of fingers and thumbs. An injury to these tendons can result in challenges extending the fingers fully. 

Distal Bicep Tendon Tear

The distal bicep tendon connects the bicep muscle to the forearm, facilitating arm movement. A tear or laceration in this tendon can lead to weakness in bending the elbow and rotating the forearm. Surgical intervention might be necessary for severe cases.

Rotator Cuff Tear

The rotator cuff is a group of tendons supporting the shoulder joint's movement. A tear can cause pain and weakness, especially when lifting or rotating the arm. Rehabilitation exercises and, in some cases, surgery may be recommended for recovery.

De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis

De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis affects tendons around the base of the thumb, causing pain and swelling. Individuals may experience difficulty gripping or pinching. 

Tennis Elbow

Tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylitis, results from overuse of the forearm extensor tendons. Pain and tenderness on the outer elbow are common symptoms.

Trigger Finger

Trigger finger occurs when a tendon sheath becomes inflamed, making finger movement difficult. Patients may notice clicking or popping sensations. 

Seek Immediate Attention for Tendon Lacerations

Tendon lacerations often result from accidents involving sharp objects like knives, glass, or tools. Injuries may occur during mishaps in the kitchen, workplace incidents, sports accidents, or other traumatic events that expose an individual to sharp objects. Treatment for tendon lacerations differs from other types of tendon injuries due to the severity of the damage. Immediate medical attention is crucial to assess the severity of a laceration, as many tendon lacerations require surgery. Without proper treatment, lacerations can result in improper healing, infection, scar tissue, tendon rupture, chronic pain, and impairment in the affected limb. 




Treatments for Tendon Lacerations and Injuries

Tendon injuries demand appropriate treatment for optimal recovery. Both non-surgical and surgical options are available, tailored to the severity and type of injury. Non-surgical interventions are often the initial approach for tendon injuries, focusing on minimizing inflammation and promoting natural healing. When non-surgical methods prove insufficient, surgical interventions become necessary for repairing or reconstructing damaged tendons.

Non-Surgical Treatments


Rest and Immobilization

Resting the affected area and using splints or braces help reduce strain on the injured tendon, allowing it to heal. Immobilization aids in preventing further damage and promoting a speedier recovery. However, for a true tendon laceration, rest and immobilization will often not restore the integrity of the tendon.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy plays a crucial role in rehabilitating tendon injuries. Customized exercises help improve range of motion, strengthen surrounding muscles, and enhance overall joint function. This non-invasive approach is often effective in mild to moderate cases.


Anti-inflammatory medications, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), can alleviate pain and swelling associated with tendon injuries. However, their prolonged use should be monitored under medical guidance.

Corticosteroid Injections

In some cases, corticosteroid injections may be administered to reduce inflammation and relieve pain directly at the injury site. However, these injections are generally used judiciously due to potential side effects.


Surgical Treatments


Tendon Repair Surgery

Tendon repair surgery is employed to reconnect torn tendon ends, restoring their function. The procedure is crucial for injuries where the tendon has completely severed, and proper alignment is essential for optimal recovery.

Tendon Graft Surgery

In cases where the tendon is severely damaged or insufficient, a tendon graft may be performed. This involves using a tendon from another part of the body or a donor tendon to replace the damaged portion, promoting enhanced stability.

Tendon Transfer Surgery

Tendon transfer surgery involves relocating a healthy tendon to replace the function of a damaged or nonfunctional tendon. This approach is often employed to restore lost function in cases where direct repair is not feasible.

Don’t Ignore Signs of a Tendon Injury.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I differentiate between a mild and severe tendon injury?

Mild tendon injuries often involve localized pain and swelling, while severe injuries may result in a loss of function, visible deformity, or an inability to move the affected joint.

Is surgery always necessary for tendon injuries?

No, surgery is typically reserved for severe cases or when non-surgical treatments prove ineffective. However, tendon lacerations do nearly always require surgery. 

Can tendon injuries heal on their own without medical intervention?
Mild tendon injuries may heal with rest and non-surgical treatments. However, severe injuries often require medical attention and, in some cases, surgical intervention for optimal recovery.
How long does it take for a tendon injury to heal?
The healing time varies based on the severity of the injury. Mild injuries may take a few weeks with proper care, while severe injuries might require several months, especially if surgery is involved.
Are there ways to prevent tendon injuries?

Maintaining good overall health, proper warm-up exercises before physical activities, and using proper techniques during sports or repetitive tasks can help reduce the risk of tendon injuries. Adequate rest and conditioning are also crucial.

What can I do at home to manage tendon pain?
Applying ice to the affected area, elevating the injured limb, and taking over-the-counter pain relievers as recommended by a healthcare professional can help manage tendon pain at home. However, it's important to consult a doctor for personalized advice.
Are there specific exercises to avoid during tendon recovery?
High-impact or strenuous activities that strain the injured tendon should be avoided during the recovery period. Your healthcare provider or physical therapist can provide guidance on safe and effective exercises for rehabilitation.
How can I tell if physical therapy is working for my tendon injury?

Improvement in range of motion, reduced pain, and increased strength are positive signs that physical therapy is effective. Communicating with your physical therapist about your progress is essential for adjusting the treatment plan as needed.