Tendon tears can be incomplete or complete. An incomplete tear does not go through all of the fibers of the tendon. A complete tear of a tendon is also referred to as a rupture. When a tendon is ruptured, your orthopedic doctor will need to see you promptly for evaluation and treatment. Even an incomplete tear may cause you to experience considerable pain, which is why it is important to arrange for an orthopedic evaluation as soon as possible.
Symptoms of a Torn Tendon
When a tendon suddenly ruptures, you may experience instantaneous intense pain. You may even hear a popping sound or snapping sound when the tendon ruptures. The area will be weak and it may look deformed. You will be unable to bear weight on the tendon, such as the case when the Achilles tendon ruptures. The area may begin to swell, bruise, and turn red within 30 minutes of the rupture.
Causes of a Torn Tendon
Direct trauma is the most common cause of tendon tears. Some examples of direct trauma include getting hit with a ball, being hit by a car, or falling down a flight of stairs. Age-related wear and tear can weaken tendons, making them prone to rupture during physical activity. An injection into a tendon could also rupture it. This is most likely after two or more injections into the same tendon. Sudden movements, stretches, or lifting a heavy load could also cause a tendon to tear.
Diagnosing Tendon Tears
Your orthopedic doctor may perform a physical exam of the affected area when a torn tendon is suspected. One or more imaging studies might also be needed. An X-ray allows the doctor to rule out a dislocated or fractured bone as the cause of your pain. An MRI study allows for the visualization of soft tissues and provides detailed information about the extent and location of the tear in your tendon.
Tendon Tear Treatments
A small tear may benefit from non-invasive orthopedic care such as rest, ice, compression, and elevation. An injection of a steroid medication could reduce swelling in your soft tissues. You may receive a brace or splint to help immobilize the area and reduce pressure. Physical therapy could help you to regain strength. In a completely torn tendon, orthopedic surgery followed by physical therapy provides an excellent chance at a full recovery.