Restoring the Tendons
By Edsel Tan, L.Ac.
Tendons are cords of fibrous tissue that connect muscles to bones in the proximity of joints. When your
muscles contract, the tendons transmit the force of the contraction. In the context of Traditional Chinese
Medicine (TCM), the tendons empower one to utilize one’s will to direct the exertion of muscular strength.
They are crucial to human movement and biomechanical stabilization.
Repetitive activity, overuse of specific joints, and physical trauma could lead to tears within a
tendon and consequently inflammation, pain, weakness, and swelling. This is called tendonitis (also
spelled tendinitis). Tenosynovitis, inflammation of the sheath that surrounds tendons, often accompanies
tendonitis, aggravating the duration and severity of the discomfort. A tendon tear that is more severe is
referred to as a tendon rupture and may require surgery for optimum rehabilitation.
Since tendons receive less blood circulation than muscles, tendonitis usually takes a longer period of
time to heal than muscle strain. If blood circulation is improved, however, the transfer of nutrients and
oxygen to the injured tendon is optimized and the healing time is shortened. The integrative use of TCM
modalities has been effective in improving circulation of blood to injured tendons. TCM enhances the
release of the body’s own biochemical molecules that reduce inflammation, dilate blood vessels, and block
The key components of TCM in the treatment of tendonitis are as follows:
ACUPUNCTURE sends signals through the peripheral and central nervous systems to initiate a healing
response. Thus, it reduces inflammation and improves circulation of oxygen and nutrient-filled blood into
the injured tissue.
MASSAGE – manual therapy (that may include herb infused oil) to break up tension resulting from
prolonged tightening of the surrounding area. This “guarding” is a defense mechanism to protect the
injured area. If it occurs well beyond the acute phase, healing time is slowed down due to tightened
muscles constricting blood flow.
HERBAL THERAPY – taken internally (as a liquid decoction, pill, or capsule) and externally
(as an herbal patch or liniment) to improve circulation and reduce inflammation.
ANTI-INFLAMMATORY DIET – the consumption of nutritious foods with natural anti-inflammatory properties
to improve circulation of blood.
CHI GONG (Energy Exercise) – restorative movements using breath and intention to improve range of motion and
functionality by improving circulation of blood into the injured area. Muscular activity moves toxin
containing interstitial fluids and stagnant blood into lymphatic capillaries and veins to be carried to
the liver for detoxification.