Skip to main content

by Danielle Clark-Fox, DPT

Every time a patient comes to the clinic for an evaluation I make sure they have a good understanding of what their injury is and how it occurred, so I thought this make for a good topic to put out into cyberspace, What is going on and how did it happen?

What is Tendonitis? As a general rule, if something ends in “itis” it means inflamed and irritated. Tendons are fibrous bands of connective tissue between muscles and bones. Tendonitis is most common in shoulders, elbows, wrists and heels and is most often caused by repetitive movement over time. Simple treatment goes back to PRICE- protection against further repetitive inflammatory activity, rest, ice, compression, elevation. If symptoms persist for more than a week or so and/or interfere with daily activities you should consider seeing your MD to check it out more thoroughly.

Disc Bulge vs Herniation? I like to compare vertebral discs to jelly donuts, quite fitting in with my love of food! The disc is made of a tough outer ring of cartilage with a more jelly consistency cartilage in the center area. When a disc is bulging it means part of the disc (usually the outer area) has moved left or right of center and is now pushing the boundaries of its normal functioning space between the vertebrae. This can occur from trauma, repetitive stress/strain, weakness or aging. Depending on the placement of the bulge you may or may not feel pain going down part of your leg or radiating from your back. In fact many people may not feel any symptoms at all! A herniation means some of the “jelly” has escaped from the center through a crack in the outer layer and is literally out of the disc now. Once out, the herniation will not go back in, but a significant amount of healing will occur. This is much more likely to cause pain and/or radiating symptoms.

How long does it take for muscles and bones to heal? Without any complicating factors such as osteopenia/osteoporosis, surgery to place pins/screws/plates in the area bones will establish a good base of healing in about 6-8 weeks. Older adults may find up to 12 weeks are needed for good healing. Smoking will also account for increased healing time- yes smoking increases healing time for everything! If a muscle is minimally torn/moderately strained, again without complication, it will establish a good base of healing in about 2-4 weeks.

Does a bruise mean I am bleeding? Technically, yes! A bruise, also known as a contusion, forms when small blood vessels such as capillaries are torn or ruptured from a trauma. The black and blue color comes from blood collecting in the tissues right under the skin. Green/purple is also a common color to see. This can take 2-4 weeks to heal and may move through several of the above colors- not quite as fun as your own personal rainbow.

I love answering patient’s questions, and this makes me feel like I have put some good information out there that might save you from googling one of these questions and finding information that may or may not be correct. There’s some great information out there and also some not great information, so here’s to adding to the great information category!

Dr. Fox is a physical therapist at Boston Sports Medicine