Fear, anxiety, depression, distress and catastrophisation are all factors known to affect pain and disability levels. To date, the association of such psychological factors has yet to be established in tendinopathy. Therefore, the purpose of this paper was to determine if psychological variables are associated with tendinopathy and whether any such variables may be associated with pain and disability outcomes in conservative management of tendinopathy. A systematic review was undertaken and included studies were appraised for risk of bias using the Newcastle-Ottawa Scale. Owing to heterogeneity of studies, a qualitative synthesis was undertaken.
Ten articles describing nine studies and 1108 participants were included. Conflicting evidence exists regarding the association of anxiety, depression and lateral epicondylalgia (LE). Strong evidence suggests LE is not associated with kinesiophobia. Moderate evidence links catastrophisation and distress with LE. Moderate evidence suggests distress is not associated with rotator cuff tendinopathy, but kinesiophobia and catastrophisation are. Limited evidence suggests patellar tendinopathy is not associated with anxiety or depression and kinesiophobia may be linked with suboptimal outcomes in Achilles tendinopathy.
Tendinopathy requires an individualised approach to management. Clinicians should consider using validated screening tools for the presence of psychological variables as a part of their holistic management.