What is tendonitis?
Tendonitis (also called tendinitis) is an inflammation or irritation of a tendon, a thick cord that attaches bone to muscle.
Usually tendonitis is referred to by the body part involved, for example, Achilles tendonitis which affects the Achilles tendon, or patellar tendonitis which affects the patellar tendon (jumper’s knee). Tendonitis can occur in various other parts of the body, including the elbow, wrist, finger, or thigh.
Some common lay terms for tendonitis include:
- Golfer’s elbow
- Jumper’s knee
- Pitcher’s shoulder
- Swimmer’s shoulder
- Tennis elbow
How common is tendonitis?
Tendonitis can affect people of any age, but is more common among adults who do a lot of sports. Elderly individuals are also susceptible to tendonitis because our tendons tend to lose their elasticity and become weaker as we get older. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
What are the symptoms of tendonitis?
The common symptoms of tendonitis are:
- Pain – if the affected area is moved the pain worsens
- A feeling that the tendon is crackling or grating as it moves. This sensation is more common on examination.
- Swelling in the affected area
- The affected area may be hot and red
- A lump that develops along the tendon
- If there is a rupture a gap may be felt in the line of the tendon and movement will be very difficult.
There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
When should I see my doctor?
Most cases of tendonitis can respond to self-care measures. See your doctor if your signs and symptoms persist and interfere with your day-to-day activities for more than a few days.
What causes tendonitis?
Although tendonitis can be caused by a sudden injury, the condition is much more likely to stem from the repetition of a particular movement over time. Most people develop tendonitis because their jobs or hobbies involve repetitive motions, which put stress on the tendons needed to perform the tasks.
Using proper technique is especially important when performing repetitive sports movements or job-related activities. Improper technique can overload the tendon — which can occur, for instance, with tennis elbow — and lead to tendonitis.
What increases my risk for tendonitis?
There are many risk factors for tendonitis, such as:
As people get older, their tendons become less flexible — which makes them easier to injure.
Tendonitis is more common in people whose jobs involve:
- Repetitive motions
- Awkward positions
- Frequent overhead reaching
- Forceful exertion
You may be more likely to develop tendonitis if you participate in certain sports that involve repetitive motions, especially if your technique isn’t optimal. This can occur with:
Diabetes – people with diabetes have higher risk of developing tendonitis. Experts are not sure why.
Rheumatoid arthritis – people with rheumatoid arthritis have a higher risk of developing tenosynovitis (when the sheath surrounding the tendon is inflamed).
Diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is tendonitis diagnosed?
Tendonitis can usually be diagnosed during the physical exam alone. Your doctor may order X-rays or other imaging tests if he or she needs to rule out other conditions that may be causing your signs and symptoms.
How is tendonitis treated?
The goals of tendonitis treatment are to relieve your pain and reduce inflammation. Often, taking care of tendonitis on your own — including rest, ice and over-the-counter pain relievers — may be all the treatment that you need.
For tendonitis, your doctor may recommend these medications:
- Pain relievers.Taking aspirin, naproxen sodium (Aleve) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) may relieve discomfort associated with tendonitis.
- Topical creamswith anti-inflammatory medication — popular in Europe and becoming increasingly available in the United States —also may be effective in relieving pain without the potential side effects of taking anti-inflammatory medications by mouth.
- Sometimes your doctor may inject a corticosteroid medication around a tendon to relieve tendonitis. Injections of cortisone reduce inflammation and can help ease pain. Corticosteroids are not recommended for chronic tendonitis (lasting over three months), as repeated injections may weaken a tendon and increase your risk of rupturing the tendon.
- Platelet-rich plasma (PRP). PRP treatment involves taking a sample of your own blood and spinning the blood to separate out the platelets and healing factors. The solution is then re-injected into the area of chronic tendon irritation. Though still under investigation, PRP injection in the region of chronic tendon irritation has been shown to be beneficial for many chronic tendon conditions.
You might benefit from a program of specific exercise designed to stretch and strengthen the affected muscle-tendon unit. For instance, eccentric strengthening — which emphasizes contraction of a muscle while it’s lengthening — has been shown to be effective in treating chronic tendon inflammation.
Surgical and other procedures
Depending on the severity of your tendon injury, surgical repair may be needed, especially if the tendon has torn away from the bone.
For chronic tendon inflammation, focused aspiration of scar tissue (FAST) is a minimally invasive treatment option using ultrasound guidance and very small instruments designed to remove tendon scar tissue without disturbing the surrounding healthy tendon tissue.
FAST achieves the same goal as open surgery but is performed under local anesthesia in a nonsurgical setting. Most people return to normal activities within one to two months.
Lifestyle changes & home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage tendonitis?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with tendonitis:
- Avoid activities that increase the pain or swelling. Don’t try to work or play through the pain. Rest is essential to tissue healing. But it doesn’t mean complete bed rest. You can do other activities and exercises that don’t stress the injured tendon. Swimming and water exercise may be well-tolerated.
- To decrease pain, muscle spasm and swelling, apply ice to the injured area for up to 20 minutes several times a day. Ice packs, ice massage or slush baths with ice and water all can help. For an ice massage, freeze a plastic foam cup full of water so that you can hold the cup while applying the ice directly to the skin.
- Because swelling can result in loss of motion in an injured joint, compress the area until the swelling has ceased. Wraps or compressive elastic bandages are best.
- If tendonitis affects your knee, raise the affected leg above the level of your heart to reduce swelling.
Although rest is a key part of treating tendonitis, prolonged inactivity can cause stiffness in your joints. After a few days of completely resting the injured area, gently move it through its full range of motion to maintain joint flexibility.
You can also try over-the-counter medications — such as aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others), naproxen sodium (Aleve) or acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) — in an attempt to reduce the discomfort associated with tendonitis.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
tendinitis. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/tendonitis/basics/definition/con-20020309. Accessed June 29, 2017.
tendinitis. http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/arthritis-tendonitis. Accessed June 29, 2017.
tendinitis (tendonitis): Symptoms, Causes and Treatments. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/175596.php. Accessed June 29, 2017.
Review Date: June 29, 2017 | Last Modified: September 13, 2019