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The Difference Between Tendonitis and a Ligament Tear

Tendons and ligaments have the important job of holding us together and helping us move. Because they’re involved in everyday activities including work and play, they’re susceptible to injury and can be quite painful. Learn the difference between tendonitis and a ligament tear, and when it’s time to see Dr. Steven E. Nolan in our Sugar Land, Texas, office.

Tendons and ligaments

Tendons and ligaments are bands of connective tissue that are important parts of our musculoskeletal system. Tendons connect bones to muscles and help us move; ligaments connect bones to bones in our joints.

Because they are used for everything from working, doing laundry, walking, and playing sports, they can suffer from overuse. Common causes of injury are:

These injuries may get better with rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE), over-the-counter pain relievers, steroid shots, or surgery.


Tendonitis is inflammation of a tendon. It can be caused by overuse, repetitive motion like working on an assembly line, a sports injury like tennis elbow, or trauma like a sprain. No matter where it’s located, the affected tendon may be inflamed, swollen, painful, red, or warm to the touch.

In severe cases, the tendon could rupture and require surgery. Common tendon ruptures occur in the:

Ligament tear

If something happens to one of your ligaments, you may hear a popping sound or feel something tearing in your knee, ankle, wrist, or back. The injured area may swell right away and hurt. The joint may feel unstable or wobbly, especially if there’s an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear in your knee. You may have heard of ACL tears, especially if you play sports. Unfortunately, ACL tears are very common.

Ligament injuries are graded according to how bad they are. Grade 1 is a mild sprain, grade 2 is a moderate sprain and partial tear, grade 3 is a severe sprain and ligament tear. If you get injured, it’s best to set up a consultation with Dr. Nolan as soon as possible so he can do a thorough exam and order X-rays or an MRI to determine the extent of your injury.

Request an appointment with Dr. Nolan online or call 281-720-6910 today to get the care you need, when you need it.

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