Tendons are structures made of fibrous connective tissue in your body that attach muscle to bone and function to allow your muscles to contract and move a part of your body. Muscles are important structures that allow us to exercise, perform sports and work though movement of our arms, legs, hands, and feet. Tendon tears can be thought of as a spectrum of a problem from small partial tears to complete tears.
When a tendon is torn, typically there is pain and swelling that occurs when the injury first happens. Then over time, the swelling improves and pain subsides but the area of the body affected remains weak and painful. It is common that the tear prevents you from performing certain movements without considerable difficulty, weakness and pain.
When you have a tendon tear, there will likely be a history of a traumatic event or accident that you recall when the symptoms began. Sometimes though, there may be a minor trauma or accident that causes a partial tear that is not bothersome initially, but then becomes symptomatic over time as the tear slowly progresses and becomes larger.
If you have a partial tear, over time, the tear may become larger and progress to a full tear which is typically associated with worsening weakness and pain. Full thickness tears, particularly rotator cuff tears, retract over time and begin to scar down in a location that is far from where they tore. These tears have a window of time where they can be fixed, and if ignored for too long, they may not be repairable.
When to see your doctor:
If you have had an accident or are having difficulty moving a part of your body because of weakness or pain, you should see your physician for further evaluation as a delay in diagnosis may worsen your condition and affect your overall outcome.