Posted on: September 23, 2008 Posted by: Nicole Harding Comments: 0

In Greek folklore, the warrior hero Achilles became invincible and immortal when he was dipped in the River Styx.  Achilles’ mother held him by the heel, which meant that his ankle was vulnerable to every attack.  Paris, the prince of Troy, then killed Achilles by shooting an arrow straight to his vulnerable heel.

While there aren’t too many warrior heroes who live today, you may feel the same tender, piercing effects on your body when you feel an attack of tendinitis. Stress, fatigue, and an improper diet can all contribute to sore or painful tendons.  For some people, the feeling of tendinitis is just as painful or comparable to having someone shoot an arrow at the tendon itself.  Instead of playing hero, here are some ways you can get rid of tendinitis.

What is Tendinitis?

Tendons are the thick cords that connect muscles and bones together.  Think of them as natural cords or cables that transmit movement from your muscles to your bones.  Tendons are made from strong bands of connective tissues like collagen, proteins, and water.

Like all the parts of the skeletal and muscular system, tendons have a limited range of motion.  Over time, movement and action will break apart some of the cells in the connective tissue, causing damage.  Years of overuse and stress wear out the tendon, which then compensates by toughening itself up when the collagen fibers regenerate.  When the tendon exceeds its range of motion, or when the tendon is stressed by a particularly intense physical activity, it gets painful and inflamed.  The pain that comes with an inflamed tendon is tendinitis.

Symptoms of Tendinitis

You may suffer from tendinitis if:

  • The skin outside the tendon (like the back of the heel or the inner wrist) is swollen or inflamed.
  • When you touch the tendon, you feel a stinging, throbbing pain.
  • You cannot move your foot, hand, leg, arm, or neck.

Tendinitis is a common injury caused by repetitive activities like typing, and intense sports like tennis and basketball.  When tendinitis gets serious, it may cause the affected tendon to rip straight from the bone or the muscle it is attached to.  Some cases of tendinitis may not result to muscle tears, but may cause you to completely lose movement in the affected limb.

Immobilize the Tendon

Complete bed rest is often the best way to relieve the stress from a painful tendon.  For tendinitis caused by repetitive stress injury, you only need to take a full break away from the computer keyboard or the video game console.  For tendinitis that involves the Achilles tendon, though, the key is to limit the movement of the foot.  Splints get the job done, although they should only be fitted by a person with qualified training in first aid.

Another alternative to a bandage splint is an air bladder that you fit around the ankle.  An air bladder cushions the weight of your foot, as well as gives the needed support to keep your tendon from moving.  Air bladders can be prescribed by physical therapists, or bought over-the-counter from a pharmacy.  When you bind an air bladder to the affected foot, make sure to use bigger shoes or flip-flops.  Try your best not to move the foot as much, or add unnecessary loads to it.

Take a Painkiller

Tendinitis tends to have prolonged and lasting pain, especially if it’s chronic.  A painkiller is usually enough to block the pain receptors of your nervous system, but it is important to choose the right painkiller for the right kind of pain:

  • Topical pain relievers like mentholated liniment or ointments should be used when the pain needs to be soothed, not eliminated temporarily.  Chinese medicated herbal oils also work well for the job.
  • Oral painkillers like ibuprofen and naproxen sodium work very well to stop throbbing pain, although it will take some time before the painkiller takes effect.
  • Lidocaine patches are also effective at relieving pain.  Cut and shape the patch, and apply the patch directly to the tendon.

Use Ice Packs

Inflammations are usually treated with ice packs.  An ice bag wrapped in two layers of thin tea towels can bring instant relief to a throbbing or irritated tendon.  When you apply an ice pack, keep the affected limb elevated to reduce circulation to the area.  To improve the cold compress treatment, try the following alternatives:

  • Crushed ice. Big blocks of ice have less surface area, and may tend to melt to form jagged edges.  Crushed ice also conforms to the contour of the affected tendon.
  • Frozen vegetables like corn, carrot cubes, and zucchini are good at holding cold temperatures.  Unlike ice, they hold a cold temperature better.

Surgery and Therapy

For chronic cases of tendinitis, surgery is often needed to repair the injured or broken tendon.  There are three options used by physicians to relieve the problems caused by injured tendons:

  • Surgery.  Severe tendon injuries are often consistent with ligament injuries and torn muscle fibers.  Surgery may be necessary to reconstruct tendons, reattach the tendon, or remove spurs and other injuries that may have caused your tendinitis attack.
  • Nitrous oxide delivery.  Nitrous oxide has been shown to help accelerate the growth of new cells and tissues for injured, ripped, or snapped tendons.  A transdermal patch is usually applied on the skin covering the tendon, and the bloodstream then delivers the nitrous oxide to the injured tendon.
  • Physical therapy is almost always recommended to relieve a stressed tendon without surgery or medication.  It is also much more affordable than surgery.  It will take some time before the tendon will be restored to its elastic, flexible state.

Preventing Tendinitis

Like many other injuries, tendinitis only occurs when you seriously injure or stress the tendon.  Tendinitis can also be aggravated when you don’t keep a healthy diet.  Here are some ways to avoid tendinitis:

  • Keep a healthy, active lifestyle to keep your tendons flexible.
  • Know the range of motion of your tendons.  Do not exert too much effort in competitive sports; many sport careers ended because of chronic tendinitis.
  • Relax your hands when you type.  Tendinitis is a symptom consistent with carpal tunnel syndrome and repetitive stress injury.
  • Take periodic breaks from strenuous sports or from repetitive physical activities.
  • Before typing or engaging in active sports, loosen your limbs.  Bend your elbows, loosen your wrists, and shake your ankles to improve the flexibility of the tendons.
  • Eat a balanced diet.

Tendinitis is more than just a pins-and-needles problem; for many people, the pain of a tendinitis attack can be just like an arrow piercing through the limb.  With these tips to get rid of tendinitis, sore ankles and writhing pains will be just like Achilles himself: a thing of the past.

Leave a Comment