Tendinitis health facts
- Tendinitis, sometimes spelled tendonitis, is inflammation within the tendons, the tissue that connects muscles to bones throughout the body.
- Tendons can become inflamed due to overuse, repetitive motion and injury.
- Tendinitis can occur wherever there is a tendon but most often occurs in the heels, hips, knees, shoulders, wrists and elbows.
- The most common symptoms of tendinitis are pain, tenderness, stiffness or mild swelling in the affected area.
What is tendinitis (tendonitis)?
Tendinitis (or tendonitis) is inflammation in the tendons, which are the fibrous tissue that attaches muscle to bone. Tendons are essential to the structure of our musculoskeletal system, and are largely responsible for the movement of our joints. When a muscle contracts to move a joint, it’s the tendon that pulls on the bone moving the joint.
Tendinitis can occur in any of the tendons, but is most common in the shoulders, elbows, wrists, knees, hips and heels.
Causes of tendinitis
Tendinitis can be the result of either overuse or sudden injury that puts stress on the tendons causing them to become inflamed. Sports that involve the same or similar repetitive movements like skiing, golf, running, tennis, baseball and swimming put athletes at increased risk of tendinitis. Hobbies and occupations that involve repetitive motions, awkward positions, overhead reaching or great physical effort can also put individuals at risk of tendinitis.
A person’s risk of developing tendinitis increases as he or she ages because the tendons become less flexible over time, and more susceptible to injury. Certain health conditions such as diabetes or arthritis can also increase the risk of tendinitis.
Tendinitis symptoms & diagnosis
Tendinitis symptoms can develop over a long period of time or can appear suddenly. Typical symptoms include pain or tenderness near the joint, stiffness, crackling or grinding during movement, or in some cases mild swelling. Often the pain presents as a dull ache.
With proper relative rest and care, the symptoms of tendinitis can go away within a few days to several weeks. If left untreated, symptoms can worsen and become chronic.
To diagnose tendinitis a physician or qualified healthcare provider will discuss the patient’s symptoms and perform a physical exam. Often noninvasive home remedies such as rest, ice and over-the-counter (OTC) medication are the first line of treatment.
If symptoms persist, further examination or imaging tests such as an X-ray, ultrasound or MRI may be required to identify swelling of a tendon or rule out other potential musculoskeletal disorders.
Types of tendinitis (tendonitis)
While tendinitis (tendonitis) can occur on any tendon, there are several different types of tendinitis related to the different parts of the body they affect.
Swimmer’s shoulder (shoulder impingement)
Swimmer’s shoulder occurs when the tendons and bursa sacs within the shoulder become inflamed. Symptoms include aching pain in the shoulder area and pain when raising the arm out laterally (to the side) or raising the arm in front of the body, as occurs during swimming.
Also referred to as “Little League elbow,” this is the inflammation of tendons within the elbow as a result of overuse and repetitive throwing motion. Symptoms include pain, swelling and restricted motion in the elbow.
Tennis elbow (extensor tendinopathy or lateral epicondylitis)
Tennis elbow is the result of overuse of the forearm, hand or other arm muscles causing inflammation in the tendons on the outer area of the elbow. The symptoms of tennis elbow include pain on the outside of the elbow, in the forearm and wrist, which worsens during activity.
Golfer’s elbow (flexor tendinopathy or medial epicondylitis)
Golfer’s elbow is also caused by overuse and repetitive motion. Golfer’s elbow occurs in the tendons inside the elbow, causing pain on the inside area of the elbow and down the inside of the forearm.
Trigger finger occurs when a tendon in one of the fingers or thumb becomes inflamed, stiff or tender. In some cases the thumb or finger becomes stuck in a bent position, resembling how one pulls a trigger. Common symptoms include pain and a popping sensation in the affected finger.
De Quervain’s tenosynovitis
De Quervain’s tenosynovitis is a type of tendinitis that occurs in the tendons of the thumb or on the thumb side of the wrist. Symptoms of de Quervain’s tenosynovitis include pain, swelling and tight sensation within the thumb and wrist that may radiate up the forearm.
Jumper’s knee is a type of tendinitis that affects the patellar tendon, which attaches the patella (kneecap) to the top of the shinbone. It is the tendon that is responsible for strengthening the knee and helping it bend. Symptoms include pain and swelling underneath the kneecap, and pain with stairs or transitioning from sitting to standing.
Achilles heel (Achilles tendinitis)
Achilles heel occurs in the tendon that connects the calf muscle to the heel bone. The Achilles tendon can become inflamed, overstretched, torn or ruptured causing tenderness and pain that worsens with use in the heel area.
HealthFit’s approach to treating tendinitis
At HealthFit our sports medicine physician, Dr. Yamazaki, strives to develop a full understanding of an injury and what caused it. He then works with patients to determine a detailed treatment plan that works for their lifestyle. Potential treatment options include:
- Ultrasound guided corticosteroid or platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections.
- Guided exercises and stretching.
- Sports medicine rehab with physical therapy.
- Functional bracing to allow rest of the tendon.
- Body optimization with a kinesiologist.
Our sports medicine physician can also provide an expedited referral to specialty orthopedic surgeons when needed.
Treating tendinitis at home
Tendinitis can often be treated at home using OTC medication as well as rest, ice, compression and elevation, often referred to as the R.I.C.E. protocol.
Resting the joint adequately allows the inflammation to go down and healing to begin.
An ice pack can alleviate pain and swelling in the limbs. Ice can be applied once or twice a day for 10- to 15-minute periods. It is important not to expose the skin to ice directly or for long periods of time, as this can cause frostbite.
Compression bandages/sleeves can help reduce the amount of movement a limb is allowed, helping to alleviate inflammation, as long as they are not on too tight to cut off circulation.
Keeping the injured body part elevated can help reduce swelling and promote healing.
If symptoms persist or worsen despite R.I.C.E. homecare, contact a physician immediately for a thorough examination.
Here are several things that can be done to prevent the development of tendinitis.
- Avoid overdoing activities that place stress on the tendons, or if possible, stop when pain presents itself.
- Start low and go slow in a stepwise progression of exercise.
- Diversify exercise routines and activities to provide overused tendons rest. Alternating between impact-loading exercise like running and lower impact exercise like swimming limit the overuse of specific tendons.
- Improve or concentrate on activity technique to prevent injury.
- Gently stretch prior to exercising.
Take the next steps at HealthFit
HealthFit’s aim in treating musculoskeletal issues like tendinitis is to gather a global perspective of the injury and how it occurred in order to work with patients to not only treat their injuries, but prevent further injury.