How to Heal a Torn Tendon Naturally: The Type of Tear Matters


The patient’s MRI above is from clinic yesterday. It’s of an ankle tendon, but it might as well be a shoulder, knee, or hip tendon or ligament. The problem was that this patient believed that she had a “tendon rupture” and that it needed surgery, so she went that direction. Now things are a mess, and as I looked at the image, it was clear that this ankle tendon tear was of a type that we can usually heal with stem cells. So how to heal a torn tendon naturally? First, you have to understand what sort of torn tendon or ligament you have.

How is a Tendon or Ligament Made?

Dense fibers that all run in the same direction makes up tendons and ligaments, not unlike rope. But as we age, the natural stem cells inside these structures can get worn out leading to wear and tear that accumulates without repair. This degeneration can cause the tendon or ligament to weaken so something like a fall, or a weird move can cause a tear.

What are the Different Kind of Tendon and Ligament Tears and How Do they Respond to Stem Cell Treatment without Surgery?

When most patients hear that they have a torn tendon or ligament, they think that the damage is massive and can only be fixed surgically. So how to heal a torn tendon naturally? What if I told you that most tears are nothing of the sort and many can be treated without invasive surgery? Hence understanding which type of tear you have may help avoid an invasive procedure and possible side effects.

A partial tear means that only part of the tendon or ligament is torn (see below). These tears usually are helped with a precise imaged guided platelet-rich plasma injection into the damaged area.

partial tendon or ligament tear

When most patients hear they have a “complete” tendon or ligament tear they believe that the structure is torn in half and snapped back like a rubber band. However, most of the time this doesn’t happen. In fact, this type of tear is called a complete non-retracted tear (shown below). This means that the tendon or ligament has injured fibers that go entirely through the “rope,” but that some fibers remain intact. In this case, that the structure is still holding together. Based on our experience, this type of damage can usually be helped with a precise high dose stem cell injection.

Complete nonretracted tendon or ligament tear

Finally, there’s the kind of tear that is what most patients believe has happened; the type where both ends pull apart like a rubber band. This damage is called a complete retracted tear which is best repaired with surgery.

complete retracted tendon or ligament tear

My Ankle Patient’s Story

My patient is a woman with left knee arthritis successfully treated in 2013. Last year she fell at home and injured her foot and ankle. Her MRI above showed that one of the outside tendons (peroneus longus) that should be dark and dense was more blown out and lighter in appearance (see the yellow dashed circles). Based on this MRI alone and continued pain, she was told she needed surgery for a complete tendon tear that she visualized as a snapped rubber band. However, the MRI shows a complete tendon tear that isn’t retracted. As above, she has the middle type non-retracted tear that likely would have responded well to an ultra-precise, image guided stem cell injection using our high dose procedure. However, it’s now more than a year out from the surgery, and she’s still miserable with all the same pain as before. Also, the ultrasound that I performed yesterday shows a tendon that’s hypertrophied (enlarged 2-3 times its normal size) and heavily scarred from the procedure. So at this late date we’ll begin treating this tendon, and hopefully, we can help.

The upshot? If you want to know how to heal a torn tendon naturally then make sure you know what type of tendon or ligament tear you have! As discussed, most patients don’t have the snapped back like a rubber band kind that needs surgery, but in fact lesser tendon issues that can usually be helped to heal through a precise injection!


*DISCLAIMER: Like all medical procedures, Regenexx® Procedures have a success and failure rate. Patient reviews and testimonials on this site should not be interpreted as a statement on the effectiveness of our treatments for anyone else.
Read 16 Comments
  1. Interesting read and I’m a bodybuilder who’s been weight training for 35 yrs and I sustained my first shoulder injury ever in March and I have a partial tear in my right shoulder rotator cuff like the first pic posted and I had my first PRP injection done with a visual guided sonogram and I felt like it started kicking in at about week 5 and at week 8 on Sept 20th I had my 2nd injection and I’m hoping that 2nd one will be the one that really solidifies my recovery. I’ve been going somewhat crazy not being able to train since April but I’ve been doing some light leg and ab work for the past 4 weeks to keep my sanity and today I did some VERY light dumbbell curls and some cable Triceps push downs and I’m hoping I can slowly be able to add more movements as the weeks go by but I was so HAPPY to be able to train something other than legs today but Stem Cell therapy will be my next option if the PRP doesn’t completely heal this partial rotator cuff tear but I’m thinking positive and taking it slowly.

  2. I have torn a ligament in my wrist which had a steel pin inserted 4yrs ago after breaking it.
    my right thumb is paralysed, and hand is week with pins and needles and painful.
    Appointment with orthopaedic consultant and xray outcome was him telling me there was nothing to be done, just take pain killers. I am left distressed and depressed with very little
    use of my right hand and in constant pain, I am 74 is that an issue?

    1. Mabelle,
      The wrist is a very complicated joint, and all the nerves responsible for movement, feeling, etc, in our hand and fingers go through it. So it’s not uncommmon to injure a nerve or nerves in the type of surgery you describe. We have done some groundbreaking work with radial nerves. Please see: and If you’d like to see if you’d be a good Candidate for Regenexx procedure, please submit the Candidate form to the right of the Blog.

  3. Can an elongated interstitial tear within the inframalleolar course of the peroneus brevis measuring approximately 1 cm heal naturally? My doctor advised surgery or PRP injections treatment.
    I fell and twisted my ankle three months ago, have done physical therapy but it still hurts and is still a bit swollen.
    Thanks you

    1. Gina,
      If it were going to heal, it likely would have in those 3 months. It’s always important to try least invasive procedures first, so given those 2 options, PRP would definitely be preferable. An exam that can track down exacly what’s going on is crucial. If considering PRP, make sure the Provider meets these standards: If you’d like to see if you’d be a candidate for a Regenexx procedure, please submit the Candidate form.

  4. I have been diagnosed with a 4 cm tendon tear on the outside of my ankle. It is not a rupture, but I have been told I need surgery. Is there a physician in the Austin, TX area that uses your procedure?

  5. Hi I thought i had pulled a muscle in my left shoulder, the pain was bad but its eased a little i can move my arm like normal but get a pain when in bed and it sometimes go down to my elbow i went to the doctor and got a scan they said i have a torn tendon so they sent me to the surgeon, he said he wants to do arthroscopy and tendon repair will take an hour and a half to do, is there another way to fix it, i have never had surgery before.

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