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Muscles can be trained and grown. Stretching can prevent injury to muscles, joints, and connective tissue.

  1. But can connective tissues (tendons, ligaments) be trained and strengthened like muscles can, in any way?
  2. Separate but related, are there any foods or supplements (e.g. glucosamine?) that are reasonably known to be effective with respect to promoting connective tissue health, strength, and/or recovery (similar to steroid shots for injury, although granted supplements wouldn't be quite so effective)?
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@ AcidRain64 How do you know it's your tendon? "Sharp pain that shot from my wrist all the way up to my ear." "It's been 2 months..." It could be your median nerve. I would go get it checked with an orthopedist first before getting medical advice on the internet. –  DrTrungNguyen Mar 30 '13 at 13:25
    
@Kate thanks for the edit. –  AcidRain64 Apr 5 '13 at 1:01
    
@GetFitChimp indeed, I was not so much seeking advice as information to consider and investigate further. –  AcidRain64 Apr 5 '13 at 1:01

3 Answers 3

up vote 1 down vote accepted

Tendons and ligaments can be strengthened by doing some stretching. It is better that you do some stretching before you start any exercise.

Below is an article that teaches how to stretch some of your tendons:
How to Rebuild & Strengthen Tendons

You said that you feel sharp pain in your wrist? I have the same problem as you a month back until my friend teaches me some exercise to strengthen my wrist. I don't know how to explain the exercise to you, so I've searched for an article on how to stretch the ligaments in your wrist.
Exercises for Strengthening Wrist Ligaments

I do not know much about the food that helps to strengthen tendons or ligaments, but I have found some articles talking about it.
For foods that help strengthening tendons:
Foods to Strengthen Tendons

Nutritions to help strengthening your ligaments:
Nutrition to Strengthen Tendons & Ligaments

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@ Jie Liang Don't take this personal, but all of the articles that you referenced with the links are what I would consider "very poor evidence" when it comes to clinical research and evidence based practice. These articles all are based on "expert opinion." And when we talk about medical situations/problems, we should consider giving out some high level of evidence with high level of research (large group of studies, repeated measures, considered ages and sexes, double-blind controlled trial, etc.) –  DrTrungNguyen Mar 30 '13 at 13:30
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The problem with this answer is that it is pretty much useless without the links; Livestrong isn't very prone to link rot, but it still might happen. –  Baarn Mar 30 '13 at 16:14
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@ Jie Liang Read this article to understand more about research in general and evidence based clinical research pccrp.org/docs/PCCRP%20Section%20I.pdf –  DrTrungNguyen Mar 30 '13 at 17:39
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@GetFitChimp Thanks for the guide. will do more thorough search for evidence next time. –  Jie Liang Mar 31 '13 at 1:39
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Thank you all for your input. Granted that many websites sometimes provide inaccurate or outright false information, I do consider the content of the links in the answer above to be reasonable provided it's taken with a grain of salt (as should pretty much always be done). As a side note, I did visit an orthopedic surgeon, who simply stated it was clear there were no catastrophic injuries and that I should "give it another 6 weeks" before returning, at which point a steroid shot would be considered. Basics mentioned in answer granted, was just curious if I could accelerate with something. –  AcidRain64 Apr 5 '13 at 0:50

When you are training, your whole body adapts to the stress you put on it. The speed, how different structures of your body adapt, differs. Muscles and tendons will adapt faster than joints and bones. Under normal conditions you don't need to explicitly train your tendons – and I doubt it is possible at all – they will develop as your muscles grow, and so will all the other connective tissue.

Whether static stretching is good or bad is a highly disputed topic. I personally don't stretch statically as it increases pain tolerance. As cool as pain tolerance might sound, pain is a warning signal, and I don't want to train this away. Some people think static stretching might be useful after exercising; I personally am not really convinced, and too lazy to do it anyway.

You should warm up before every workout, you can use dynamic stretching. The main difference between static and dynamic stretches is that you only bring your muscles and tendons in the fully stretched state for a short period, but repeatedly. The movement gets your blood flowing and readies your whole body for the exercises.

Eating the right stuff to support your connective tissue? – I don't think that this is necessary. But anyway, a big portion of your tendons consists of Collagen and the body needs Vitamin C to actually put it to use. I wouldn't supplement that, just eat an apple.

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I have been gyming for 2 years and I still feel pain in my wrist when training. Recently my friend guide me to do some stretches to condition my wrist which help me alot. Now I wont feel pain when i am training anymore. So I think there is way to train our tendons. –  Jie Liang Mar 31 '13 at 1:43
    
I cannot choose two answers, but if I could, this one would be included. Tried and true basics definitely apply here and are always good advice. Thanks. –  AcidRain64 Apr 5 '13 at 0:54
    
No problem. As soon as you have enough rep you can always come back an give me an upvote ;) –  Baarn Apr 5 '13 at 6:33

Ligaments are passive rubber bands. They are not muscles or tendons that you can voluntarily contract and release and so you cannot strengthen them through exercise. They are also very poorly vascularized and take a very long time to "heal" which is why when you tear one, the surgeon can't just "sew it back together" but has to replace it with a ligament (or sometimes tendon) from a different part of the body.

Ligaments stabilize your joints. The best way to improve joint stability, and achieve the effect of "strengthening the ligaments", is to strengthen the muscles and tendons around the joint.

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