Tendon: Definition and What it is

Medically and clinically reviewed by Jonathan Lee, MD and Dylan Peterson, PT, DPT

Tendon Definition and Meaning

A tendon is a type of fibrous connective tissue that links your muscles and bones. Tendons are small, rope-like structures that are made up mainly of collagen. 

Tendons play a crucial role in the body. They are responsible for helping to move your limbs and providing stability to joints. They can also act as shock absorbers for your muscles, soaking up some of the pressure that your muscles bear when you move around.

Tendon Examples

Anywhere muscle connects to bone, you’ll find tendons. Each tendon serves a unique function. The Achilles tendon, for example, connects calf muscles to the heel bone, and is crucial for walking, running, and jumping. The rotator cuff tendons in the shoulder enable a wide range of arm movements needed for lifting and rotating. The quadriceps tendon anchors the quadriceps muscle to the knee, which is activated when you walk or kick. The tendons in your fingers, known as flexor and extensor tendons, allow for intricate motions like gripping and typing.

Tendon vs. Ligament

While tendons and ligaments share some similarities, they serve different functions in the body.  Tendons are designed to connect muscle to bone, aiding in motion. Ligaments connect bone to bone. Ligaments help maintain joint stability, but they aren’t directly involved in motion. Tendons are generally more elastic than ligaments, permitting a greater range of motion. Ligaments are more rigid, providing joint stability. You can remember the difference between ligaments and tendons if you think: "Ligaments for Like to Like [bone to bone], Tendons for Two Types [bone to muscle]."

Common Tendon Injuries and Conditions

Tendons are hard at work as you move throughout the day. Tendon injuries can occur for a variety of reasons, including when you’re doing an exercise that pushes you past a point your body is ready for, muscle tightness, or arthritis. Any tendon in the body has the potential to get overworked, leading to a strain (aka, a pulled muscle) or a condition called tendinitis (tendonitis). Tendinitis occurs when a tendon becomes inflamed or injured. You can experience tendinitis anywhere there’s a tendon, including in your foot, ankle, hip, and wrist. Both strains and tendinitis can cause pain, swelling, decreased range of motion as well as spasms, weakness, and cramping.

Tendons: A Hinge Health Perspective

Tendons are resilient. They do a lot to support your muscles and, as a result, can withstand a lot of pressure that’s a normal part of daily movement and exercising. If you injure a tendon, it can be painful and frustrating. But don’t get discouraged: Tendons are designed to bounce back. Most tendon injuries can usually be addressed with conservative, at-home measures and gentle exercise that allow you to keep moving and strengthen the affected area. 

Working with a physical therapist if necessary and doing regular exercises and stretches helps your body get stronger and more adaptable. At Hinge Health, we say all the time that movement is medicine for your musculoskeletal health.

How Hinge Health Can Help You 

If you have joint or muscle pain that makes it hard to move, you can get the relief you’ve been looking for with Hinge Health’s online exercise therapy program.

The best part: You don’t have to leave your home because our program is digital. That means you can easily get the care you need through our app, when and where it works for you. 

Through our program, you’ll have access to therapeutic exercises and stretches for your condition. 

Additionally, you’ll have a personal care team to guide, support, and tailor our program to you. See if you qualify for Hinge Health and confirm free coverage through your employer or benefit plan here.

This article and its contents are provided for educational and informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice or professional services specific to you or your medical condition.


  1. Bordoni, B., & Varacallo, M. April 1, 2023. Anatomy, Tendons. National Library of Medicine; StatPearls Publishing. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK513237/ 

  2. Vorvick, L. July 25, 2022. Tendon vs. Ligament. MedlinePlus. Medlineplus.gov. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/imagepages/19089.htm 

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