How to Treat a Pulled Tendon

According to the article "Flexor Tendon Injuries" by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, "tendons are tissues that connect muscles to bone. When muscles contract, tendons pull on bones." Over time, repeated muscle contractions through exercise, sports or certain work tasks can result in a pulled tendon in one of the body's joints (i.e., elbow, shoulder, knees, hip, neck, fingers and even the back vertebrae). Treatments for pulled tendons are similar to other injuries or conditions such as tendinitis in that the usual recourse is a combination of rest, immobilization, ice, heat, medication and rehabilitation exercises.

Treating Your Pulled Tendon

Stop all physical activity or exercise that affects your pulled tendon. Wear a joint brace as often as possible to limit joint movement.

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Take two ibuprofen or naproxen pills every 4-6 hours throughout the day. Continue taking this anti-inflammatory medication until your pulled tendon has healed.

Put some ice in an ice pack or inside a hand towel. Strap or tie the ice pack or hand towel (use larger towel for tying) around the joint so that the ice is compressed directly against the pulled tendon and pain source. Leave the ice on your injured area for 15-20 minutes. Repeat this procedure every 3-4 hours until inflammation and swelling have subsided.

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Once your initial swelling and inflammation are under control, use a heating pad several times per day. Continue using the heating pad every day until your pulled tendon has healed completely.

Once the initial inflammation has subsided, stretch your tendon as follows: If your joint moves in two directions (i.e., knee), slowly stretch the tendon in one direction as far as possible. Hold that position for 15-30 seconds. Subsequently, stretch your tendon in the opposite direction as far as you can, and hold that position for 15-30 seconds. Do 3 sets of 10 repetitions in each direction. Limit your range of motion to movements that do not cause additional pain in your tendon. If you have a tendon that moves in more than two directions (i.e., wrist), also stretch your tendon to one side then the other, holding each movement for 15-30 seconds. Do 3 sets of 10 repetitions in both directions.


It is important to use ice on your pulled tendon the first 48-72 hours after the onset of symptoms. Ice causes vasoconstriction (narrowing of blood vessels), which minimizes inflammation and consequential pain by limiting the flow of blood and lymph fluid to the affected tendon. Once the initial inflammation is under control, heat can promote blood (with healing properties such as oxygen and vitamin C) flow to the tendon. You might consider massaging your tendon once you start using a heating pad. Massage can help relax the nerves and tendons, alleviating pain. Massage also reduces scar tissue, which is a major contributor to recurring tendon injuries.


Never start any rehabilitation exercises too soon or you can exacerbate your injury. See your doctor if pain persists despite treatment.