Posted on: January 4, 2009 Posted by: Nicole Harding Comments: 1

Tendons are tough, yet flexible bands of fibrous tissues that connect your muscles to your bones. They transmit the force of your muscular contractions to the bones so movement is possible. When these tendons become inflamed, tendonitis or tendinitis occurs. Tendonitis usually results from overuse of tendons or simply aging. It usually afflicts the tendons around your elbows, shoulders, wrists, and heels. There are many ways to treat and prevent tendonitis, depending on its severity and location.

What are the symptoms of tendonitis?

It’s easy to mistake tendonitis for muscle pain, so consult your doctor when you feel pain around your tendons. The following are the common symptoms of tendonitis:

  • Severe pain near afflicted tendons caused by small movements
  • Stiffness and restricted movement around affected areas
  • Reddish and warm skin over affected tendons
  • A noticeable lump over the tendon
  • A grating sensation or sound that can be heard through a stethoscope when the joint is moved. This is caused by dry, inflamed tendons, or swollen tendons with accumulated fluid.

Who is at risk?

You have more reason to suspect tendonitis if your job involves excessive repetitive motions of your arms or legs. Professional tennis players, baseball players, swimmers, even golfers, are all susceptible to tendonitis in the arms, elbows, and shoulders. Dancers, runners, and basketball players are more prone to tendonitis that occur in the feet or legs.

Even people who are not athletes can still develop tendonitis. Just like all body parts, the health of tendons declines with age. The risk of tendonitis increases as muscles and tendons lose their flexibility and elasticity. Elderly people are in more risk of tendonitis, especially if they were athletes before.

If you’re an athlete, you should also be careful to develop the right techniques in your sport. Improper techniques can put too much stress on muscles and tendons, contributing to tendonitis; for example, if you’re a tennis player, make sure that you know how to move your wrist the right way to avoid unnecessary overload on your tissues. Common names for different tendonitis problems include: tennis elbow, pitcher’s shoulder, golfer’s elbow, jumper’s knee, and swimmer’s elbow.

How is tendonitis diagnosed?

Diagnosis usually involves a thorough physical examination and a discussion with your doctor about your medical history. X-rays aren’t helpful in diagnosing tendonitis because tendons usually aren’t visible in these images. Some bone diseases though have similar symptoms as tendonitis, so your doctor may still order an x-ray. Another rarely used diagnostic procedure for tendonitis is magnetic resonance imaging or MRI. Your doctor may use it to reveal any weakening or tearing in your tendons and tendon sheaths. Blood tests may also be done if he suspects that a condition like rheumatoid arthritis causes your tendonitis.

Medical Treatment for Tendonitis

Home treatment, which includes pain relievers and rest, is usually enough to treat tendonitis. In some cases though, the inflammation may be so painful that you need advanced drugs or some form of surgery to reduce the swelling. The following are common medical treatments for tendonitis:

  • Topical applications or corticosteroid injections: Corticosteroid injections can help ease pain by reducing the inflammation in the tendons. There are potential side effects however, as repeated injections may weaken the tendons, increasing your risk of rupturing them. In addition, corticosteroid medications should never be directly injected into the tendon itself as this can lead to tendon rupture.
    A good alternative for corticosteroid injections are corticosteroid solutions that can be topically applied to the painful areas. The drug is absorbed through the skin using iontophoresis, a transdermal delivery system that uses a gentle electric current to propel the drug. Ask your doctor if it’s possible to opt for this treatment for safety.
  • Physical therapy: Physical exercise helps to strengthen muscles and tendons. You may benefit from a program of specific exercises designed to increase the force-absorbing capacity of your tendons. Consult your doctor for information on where to get this kind of therapy.
  • Surgery: If the inflammation of your tendons is too severe, or if there’s tearing in the sheaths, your doctor may recommend surgery. Surgeons can repair the thickness of tendon tears to restore function, and reduce pain in some patients. Tearing may be diagnosed through advanced techniques, like an MRI procedure.

Home Treatment for Tendonitis

Whether your tendonitis is mild or severe, home treatment will speed up your recovery and prevent further complications. Here are some home treatment tips to get rid of tendonitis.

  • Protect the affected area: Moving the affected area will result in more injuries and pain. Immobilize the area by using splints, slings, or elastic wraps. You may also use canes or crutches if have tendonitis in your heel.
  • Elevate your knee: A type of tendinitis called patellar tendinitis affects the knees and causes pain just below the kneecap. To reduce swelling in this area, elevate the affected leg above the level of your heart.
  • Compress the injured area: Too much swelling can result in loss of motion, so compress the area until the swelling stops. Compressive elastic bandages and wraps are best for this purpose.
  • Use ice packs: Apply ice packs on the injured area for up to 20 minutes several times a day to reduce pain, swelling, and muscle spasm. You can also massage the affected area with ice for more pain relief. Freeze a plastic foam cup filled with water, and then hold the cup while applying the ice directly on the skin.
  • Get plenty of rest: Working or playing through the pain will only increase the inflammation; instead, get plenty of rest to promote faster healing. Don’t lay in bed all day though, because complete immobilization may weaken the tendons further, and shutting yourself indoors may lead to depression. You can do light activities as long as they don’t put too much stress on the injured tendon. Swimming and other forms of water exercise should work well on tendonitis.
  • Take some anti-inflammatory drugs: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen and aspirin, or medications that contain acetaminophen, can be used to reduce pain. Talk to your doctor about what’s the best NSAID for you, because some of these drugs should only be taken for brief periods of time, around seven to 10 days. Prolonged use of NSAIDs or taking more than the recommended dose can cause abdominal pain, ulcers, and stomach bleeding. In addition, if you have liver problems, ask your doctor if it’s safe to take medications containing acetaminophen.

How to Prevent Tendonitis

Prevention is always better than cure. Be extra careful of your daily routine if you’re an athlete because you’re in higher risk of developing tendonitis. Follow the tips below to prevent the injury:

  • Avoid unnecessary physical stress: Strenuous physical activities that place excessive and prolonged stress on tendons can result in tendonitis. As much as possible, avoid heavy tasks or do them in brief periods of time. Also, if you experience pain while working out, stop and rest for a bit. If the pain persists, consult your doctor.
  • Mix it up: Don’t do the same activity or exercise over and over again. Mix heavy exercises such as running and weightlifting with lighter exercises such as swimming or biking.
  • Learn to do it right: Spend at least a day with an experienced athlete, and let him watch you play the sport. Ask him if you’re moving the right way. If he says that you’ve got lots to improve in terms of technique, consider taking professional instructions or lessons.
  • Stretch before and after exercise: Stretching reduces repetitive microtrauma on tight tissues like tendons. Make sure to stretch before and after you work out to maximize the range of motion of your joints and tendons.
  • Consider workplace ergonomics: Workplace ergonomics ensures that the space in which you work doesn’t put unnecessary stress on your body. Get a proper ergonomic evaluation for your gym or work station to reduce your risk of tendonitis.
  • Build your muscles: Some people develop tendonitis because they do heavy tasks that their muscles can’t handle. Build your muscles first using a well-outlined exercise program so they can withstand the load of the activities you do in your sport.

Never sacrifice your health to achieve your goals in your sport or undertaking. You may achieve great feats for a time, but you may also pay dearly for that in the end. Always place your health before any other goal to avoid tendonitis and other injuries and illnesses. Reaching your goals is easier if your body is in tip-top shape from start to finish.

1 people reacted on this

  1. I was diagnosed with tendonitis a little over a year ago. The thing that has helped me the most is wearing a wrist brace to keep my wrists in a more neutral position.

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