A tendon is the fibrous tissue that attaches the bones to the muscles. Tendonitis develops when the tendon becomes inflamed. It can occur in any tendon, but is most common in the wrist, elbow, shoulder and knees.
In most instances, tendonitis is caused by repetitive motion involving a particular tendon. For example, swinging a tennis racket over and over can place too much stress on the tendon and lead to tendonitis of the elbow.
Risk factors for developing tendonitis include participating in certain sports, such as baseball, running and golf, which often have repetitive motions that can irritate the tendons. Using improper technique while doing a repetitive motion increases your risk of developing tendonitis. Tendonitis also occurs more frequently as people age.
Symptoms and Natural History
Symptoms of tendonitis include pain and tenderness at the point where the tendon connects to the bone. Pain may occur more often while moving the affected part, but it can also occur at rest. There may also be mild swelling at the same location as the pain.
Usually tendonitis starts out gradually, and symptoms will become worse if the condition is not treated. Pain can interfere with activities, such as sports and work responsibilities. In some cases, if tendonitis becomes chronic, there is a risk that degenerative changes can take place in the tendon.
A physical exam and symptom review are often enough to diagnosis tendonitis. Your doctor will exam the painful area and check for tenderness and swelling. If your physician feels other conditions need to be ruled out, he may order additional tests, such as an x-ray to rule out arthritis or blood work to rule out inflammatory conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis.
Self-help Treatments for Tendonitis
If overuse is a cause of tendinitis, which it often is, you may need to cut back on a particular activity that appears to be the culprit. Resting the tendon appears to be the key to a reduction in symptoms.
Applying ice several times a day may also reduce inflammation and pain. Over the counter, topical pain relievers are also available to treat discomfort associated with tendonitis. Wrapping the affected area in an elastic bandage can reduce swelling, and elevating the affected area may also help reduce inflammation.
Standard Clinical Treatments for Tendonitis
Medications are often a standard treatment for tendonitis when self-help treatments fail. There are different classifications of meds used. For instance, pain relievers including over the counter medications may help. Steroid injections may be used to decrease pain and inflammation. But injections are not recommended to be given several times since they can damage the tendon.
Surgery may be required in severe cases of tendonitis, such as if the tendon separated from the bone. If chronic inflammation of a tendon occurs, surgery to remove scar tissue may also be recommended.
University of Maryland Medical Center. Tendonitis. https://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/condition/tendinitis
University of Rochester Medical Center. Tendonitis and Tenosynovitis. https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentTypeID=85&ContentID=P00069