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  • Writer's pictureRetrain Health

Tendon traffic light system

Tendons injuries can be a tricky task at times, as they are a tissue which needs the right amount of loading (ie. exercise) – in that too much will cause an increase in symptoms (pain), and too little will mean the tendon tissue does not adapt as we need it to.

Now before you read any further – I want you to read this next line a few times:

In non-acute injuries, pain is poorly correlated to tissue damage and likely has more to do with sensitivity of tissues.

Tendon injuries generally fit into the above category – you potentially have a very sensitive tissue, which can be aggravated by loading, and because of this we need a system to determine whether you have done the right amount of exercise to help your tendon adapt.

One quick point before getting into the specifics – it is OK to feel some pain during exercise, but pain should not increase at night, or over the next day. This is a sign you have done too much!

I like to use the simple “Traffic Light System” as it relates to tendon pain:

Green Light (0-3/10 pain): No increases in symptoms, you are OK to continue the activity, or perhaps increase load slightly.

Yellow light (3-5/10 pain): Minor increase in symptoms, but you can move normally within an hour of exercise, and pain reduces to normal within the next 24 hours. Proceed with caution, you can do minor bouts of loading, but too much will aggravate your symptoms and increase pain.

Red light (6-10/10 pain): Cease activity, as you have exceeded your tolerance. Generally, involves a significant increase in pain, which may not settle in the following 24 hours. Rest for 24-48 hours, allow symptoms to settle down, then begin gentle movement, and monitor your progression.

Remember when you are dealing with a tendinopathy, you want to try and find the right amount of activity, and increase slowly, allowing your tendon to adapt as you improve.

If you’re struggling with tendon pain, get in touch with one of the friendly osteopaths here at Retrain Health and get back to doing the things you love!


Retrain Health is based in the Northern Rivers, NSW. From our Byron Bay and Ballina clinics, our team provides a range of quality healthcare services and products.

Retrain Health offers osteopathy, remedial massage, strength and conditioning, and PT sessions, with qualified practitioners.

If you are interested in finding out more information or would like to book an appointment, please contact the clinic by phone (02) 6680 7447, send us an email or click here to book an appointment online.

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