What Is Tendinitis?
Tendons are thick cords that join your muscles to your bones. When these tendons become irritated or inflamed, it is called tendinitis. This condition causes acute pain and tenderness, making it difficult to move the affected joint.
Tendinitis can be a result of an injury, repetitive movement, aging, or disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis. Any tendon can develop tendinitis, but you are most likely to develop the condition in your shoulder, elbow, heel, or wrist.
Tendinitis may also be called swimmerâs shoulder, jumperâs knee, pitcherâs shoulder, golferâs or tennis elbow.
Causes of Tendinitis
The most common cause of tendinitis is repetitive action, which overuse the tendons needed to make a certain movement. Usually, people develop tendinitis if they frequently make the same motion while playing sports or at work. The risk increases if the motion is not performed correctly.
Tendinitis can also result from:
certain diseases, such as diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis
Athletes who play certain sportsâsuch as tennis, golf, bowling, or basketballâare at higher risk for tendinitis. You also may be at a higher risk if your job requires a lot of physical exertion, overhead lifting, and awkward positions.
Signs of Tendinitis
The pain from tendinitis is typically a dull ache that is concentrated around the affected area or joint. It will increase when you move the injured area. The area will be tender and you will feel increased pain if someone touches it. You may experience a tightness that makes it difficult to move the area. You may also have some swelling.
If you develop the symptoms of tendinitis, begin by resting the area and applying ice. If your condition does not improve after a few days of rest, make an appointment to see your doctor.
At your appointment, your doctor will ask about your medical history and perform a physical exam of the area where the pain is concentrated. He or she will examine your tenderness and range of motion.
Be prepared to tell your doctor about:
recent or past injuries to the area in pain
your past and present physical and sporting activities
any previously diagnosed medical conditions
all prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, and herbal supplements you take
If your doctor cannot make a diagnosis using just a physical examination, he or she may order additional tests. These could include X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, or ultrasounds.
Treatment options for tendinitis seek to reduce pain and inflammation in the tendon. Some basic home remedies include:
resting or elevating the tendon, as advised by your doctor
applying cold or heat
taking medications, such as pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medicines like aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, and acetaminophen
wrapping the area in a compression bandage until the swelling goes away
doing stretching and straightening exercises to build strength in the area
If your condition is more severe, your doctor may also recommend:
corticosteroid injections: a single injection can reduce pain and inflammation, but repeated injections can cause the tendon to weaken and increase your chances of injury
supports: depending on the location of your tendinitis, you may benefit from the use of a cane, splints, or braces
surgery: to remove inflammatory tissue
When treated early, tendinitis usually resolves quickly. For some people, it can recur and become a chronic or long-term, problem. If repetitive movements or overuse led to your tendinitis, you should change those behaviors to reduce your risk of developing it again.
You can cause additional injuryâsuch as a tendon ruptureâif the inflammation continues without treatment. Surgery is often necessary for a tendon rupture, and for those patients who do not respond well to other treatments. The surgery removes any inflammatory tissue and is usually done as an outpatient procedure.
Take these simple steps to lower your chances of developing tendinitis:
keep physically fit and build your muscle tone
warm up before exercising
avoid overuse and repetitive motions
cross-train, if you are an athlete
use proper posture when working at a desk or at other tasks
do not remain in the same position for too long, and move around periodically
use proper equipment at work and during athletic activities
If you begin to feel the pain of tendinitis, stop the activity you are performing. Take a 20-minute break to apply ice and rest.