Tendinitis, Tendinosis and Tendinopathy - what's the difference?

Tendinitis vs tendinopathy – what’s the difference?


It’s time to clear up some of the different terminology around tendon problems.


Originally we had ‘tendinitis’ – the ‘itis’ denotes inflammation

This all changed in 2002 with a great editorial in the BMJ by Karim Khan, Jill Cook, Kannus, Maffuli and Bonar. I still remember when this editorial was handed around the lecture theatre in my second year of undergraduate physiotherapy.

‘Tendinosis’ had a brief run – the ‘osis’ basically denotes ‘degenerative change’

However most academics and clinicians have settled on ‘tendinopathy’ – the ‘opathy’ basically means ‘change in’.  This reflects the continuum model by Cook and Purdham that showed tendon problems exist on a continuum of reversible, but degenerative change.

tendinopathy continuum


Separately to that, we have ‘enthesopathy’ which describes a tendinopathy where the tendon attaches to the bone.


And finally, we have conditions involving inflammation (yes it happens here) in the tendon sheath – the words ‘paratendinitis’, and ‘tenosynovitis’ are used interchangeably here.


Hopefully that all makes sense! Even though it seems unimportant, the difference between ‘tendinitis’ and ‘tendinopathy’ is not just in the name and has implications for treatment of tendon problems which we have covered in other blog posts and will continue to revisit.

This article was written by Aidan Rich, APA Sports Physiotherapist at Advance Healthcare Boronia.  You can find him on Twitter @aidanrich - Google + here and LinkedIn here.  This article originally appeared on his website aidanrich.com.au