Tendinitis, Tendinosis, and Tendinopathy

Tendinitis, Tendinosis, and Tendinopathy

VanCityPhysio’s physiotherapists may use several different terms to describe tendon injuries. These terms are often confused and used interchangeably, however, each term has its own unique meaning. With regard to chronic tendon injuries, the 3 most common terms that you’re likely to hear are:

  • Tendinitis. Tendinitis occurs when a tendon is irritated and/or inflamed. This inflammation usually occurs due to small (micro) tears in the tendon. 1 
  • Tendinosis. Tendinosis is the chronic non-inflammatory degeneration of a tendon. Tendinosis may develop as a result of chronic tendonitis or due to repetitive strain-injuries to a tendon without adequate time to heal.
  • Tendinopathy. Tendinopathy is often used to describe any problem with a tendon. These problems include tendinitis and tendinosis, as well as tendon tears and inflammation of membranes around a tendon.

When a tendon becomes painful, it is often assumed to be tendinitis. However, research suggests tendinitis is less common than tendinosis, and tendinosis is often misdiagnosed as tendinitis. Pain from either condition is considered to be the result of nerve transmission and other chemical irritants in a tendon, and not from inflammation.

Commonly Injured Tendons

The most commonly injured tendons are the shoulder’s rotator cuff tendons, which affect over 1% of the population. 3 Other tendon areas prone to injury include the Achilles (leg), patellar (knee), elbow, and wrist. 

To understand your tendinopathy, you may need to differentiate between the two most commonly confused terms – tendinitis and tendinosis.

Tendonitis vs. Tendinosis

Both tendinitis and tendinosis can result from overuse injury, causing delayed symptoms. Tendinitis may also result from an acute, sudden force on a tendon, in which case the pain and symptoms occur suddenly. Symptoms such as pain, swelling, stiffness, and reduced strength in the affected tendon are seen in both tendinitis and tendinosis. A few differentiating factors between tendinitis and tendinosis are described below




Recovery time in acute cases

2 to 3 days

2 to 3 months

Recovery time in chronic cases

4 to 6 weeks

3 to 6 months

Long-term outlook with non-surgical treatment

Almost 99% of cases recover completely

Up to 80% of cases recover completely

Treatment goals

Decrease inflammation by: Rest, anti-inflammatory medication (short-term course), icing the tendon intermittently, and/or use of cast or splint

Encourage formation of collagen and other proteins by: Physical therapy, exercise, and/or surgery (in some cases)

Long-term outlook after surgery

Almost 95% of cases recover after surgery

70 to 85% of cases recover after surgery

Recovery time after surgery

3 to 4 weeks

4 to 6 months


Almost all tendon injuries can be diagnosed by a medical professional with the help of a physical examination and medical imaging techniques. Ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are particularly useful in viewing characteristic tendon changes in tendinopathy. VanCityPhysio treatments include manual therapy, modalities, shockwave treatment (works magic!), exercise, education, and most importantly, research-based advice that will help you recover from your injury.

Contact us for more information of to book an appointment by clicking here or calling 604.398.5584.

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