Tendons are designed to absorb and transfer large amounts of tensile load. The well organised, strong yet flexible, extracellular matrix allows for this function. Many tendons are also subject to compressive loads, such as at the entheses, as the tendon wraps around bony protuberances or from internal compression during tensile loading or twisting. Tendinopathy, the clinical syndrome of pain and dysfunction in a tendon is usually the result of overload. However, it is not only the tensile overload that should be considered, as it has been shown that compressive loads change tendon structure and that combination loads can induce tendon pathology. This review summarises how load is detected by the tenocytes, how they respond to compressive load and the resulting extracellular matrix changes that occur. Understanding the effect of compression on tendon structure and function may provide directions for future matrix based interventions.
Keywords: compression; extracellular matrix; tendinopathy; tendon.