Bones and muscles play a big role in all of our movements. After all, muscles make our bones move. Of course, these complex systems need to be connected to function properly.
So what connects muscles and bones? Strong fibrous tissues known as tendons.
An extremity tendon tear can significantly affect your quality of life. Everyday movements may become painful. You probably won’t function at your best. Your injury may even cause deformities to develop in the muscles.
For some, conservative treatments like resting the area, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs), and physical therapy may be enough to relieve partial tendon tears.
However, complete tendon tears—sometimes referred to as ruptured tendons—can be more difficult to treat conservatively. As the name suggests, complete tendon tears occur when the tendon rips in two and detaches from the bone. Often, surgery is required to reattach the tendon and restore function to the area.
There are four common areas in the body where ruptured tendons generally occur. These include your:
While these injuries affect different areas of the body, they do share some common causes. For example, direct trauma or excessive strain to the area from sports, heavy lifting, or falls and accidents can cause the tendon to rupture. Additionally, as we age, our tendons may weaken due to repetitive activities, poor blood supply to the area, and chronic inflammation of the tendons.
Just like the causes of these injuries, symptoms are often similar in nature. One clear indicator of a ruptured tendon is a popping sound or sensation at the time the injury occurs. Usually after that initial “pop,” you may experience pain and swelling at the site of the injury.
A ruptured tendon may also make it difficult to use the affected extremity. This can mean trouble lifting, bearing weight, or recruiting your arm or leg. You may also notice bruising and muscle deformity near the tendon injury.
If you notice any of these symptoms, consult with your doctor or orthopedic surgeon immediately. Surgery may not always be necessary. There are some cases, however, where undergoing surgery shortly after the injury occurs is your best option.
The ultimate goal of surgery is to restore function to the area and reduce symptoms. Many extremity tendon repair surgeries allow a person to return to his or her normal activities after a period of physical rehabilitation.
For some tears, quick extremity tendon repair can reduce the chance of the tendon and muscle tissues shortening and permanent scarring. Unfortunately, waiting too long may make the surgery more complex or even not an option.
Tendon repair techniques depend on the location and severity of the injury. At the most basic level, tendon reconstruction surgery involves the surgeon locating and identifying the injured tendon. Once located, the surgeon sutures the damaged tendon together.
More severe injuries may require a tendon graft. During this procedure, the surgeon takes a piece of tendon from another area of your body and uses it to repair the damaged tendon.
In some cases, the surgeon may drill holes into the bone to help reattach the tendon. Surgical hardware, such as anchor sutures, may also be used.
Nagging partial tendon tear injuries can also be tended to with surgery. In some cases, the surgeon may cut the tendon completely and suture it up so that it has a better chance of healing properly.
Furthermore, during an extremity tendon repair, you will be given either general or local anesthesia. Thanks to advancing medical technology, many of these surgeries are now considered minimally invasive procedures.
Quick note: Check out the next section to see why minimally invasive surgeries may help you get back to “normal” quicker.
After you undergo surgery, a treatment team will develop a physical rehabilitation regimen. This plan will focus on restoring strength, flexibility, and function to the injured area. Tendon repair recovery time can vary based on your overall health, co-occurring medical conditions, and dedication to rehabilitation.
How long does it take for a tendon to heal after surgery?
Some injuries may only take a few weeks to restore function. More severe injuries, on the other hand, may require months of rehabilitation before you can return to your baseline “normal.”
Discover which treatment options are right for you with our Treatment Finder.
Choosing tendon reconstruction surgery is ultimately up to you. Conservative approaches may be all you need to ensure symptom relief. Unfortunately, however, you may never return to an optimal range of motion by choosing conservative treatments.
Consulting with your treatment team about your specific injury, symptoms, and treatment goals can give you the insights to determine if surgery is right for you.
Let’s look at a couple of examples.
Check out the next section for more examples of when surgery may be right for you. Before clicking ahead, however, you will want to know the benefits of tendon repair surgery.
As you could probably guess, advancements in medical procedures and technology are evolving quicker than ever. In the past, repairing a torn tendon may have required an open surgery in which the doctor made a large incision and had to displace surrounding tissues just to access the torn tendon.
Luckily, times have changed.
Minimally invasive procedures use a much smaller incision—sometimes only an inch or two—to insert a tiny camera and surgical equipment into the area. The surgeon can then view your tendon issues on a monitor instead of cutting deeper into your tissues to explore. Moreover, using tiny surgical tools allows the surgeon to operate even more precisely, saving you from extra weeks of postsurgical pain.
Not only does all of this make it easier for the surgeon, but it also benefits you too!
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Do you need tendon repair surgery? Of course, that all depends. Not everyone with an extremity tendon tear needs surgery.
When choosing surgery, the following factors should be considered:
In general, treatment for partial tendon tears usually starts off with conservative treatments. If symptoms persist after 6 to 12 months, then surgery may be your best option.
Complete tendon tears may require surgery much sooner, however. In some cases, a large or complete tear has a better chance of fully healing when surgery is performed shortly after an injury.
In a previous section, we discussed the most common types of ruptured tendon injuries. Let’s take a look at when surgery may be recommended for each injury.
You’ve dealt with the injury and pain. You’ve tried conservative treatments to no avail. Maybe you are thinking about surgery.
How about consulting with a team of doctors who have decades of experience treating orthopedic issues similar to what you are going through?
NJ Spine & Orthopedic will accurately diagnose your condition and empower you with treatment options that can help you get your life back. We want to make sure that you know all of your conservative and surgical options for treating your extremity tendon tear before you make your decision.
How can you get started? Call us at (855) 586-2615 today to schedule a free MRI consultation. We will also review any current diagnostic tests if you feel that you need a second opinion from a qualified team of experts.
You don’t have to live in pain any longer. Let our team at NJ Spine & Orthopedic help you get back to the life you want to live.
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Effective pain relief; less scarring— a postage stamp-sized incision (less than an inch in length) is often all that it takes to eliminate your pain.
Our minimally invasive and outpatient procedures will have you back in the comfort of your home on the very same day.
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