Tendinitis, which is also referred to as tendonitis, is the irritation or inflammation of a tendon. The tendon is a thick cord made up of a flexible band of tissues that attaches bone to muscle.
According to WebMD, tendinitis is most often the result of repetitive, minor movements in the affected area, or it can occur due to a sudden serious injury. Some of the most common household activities that cause tendinitis include gardening, raking, shoveling, carpentry, painting, scrubbing, and cleaning.
Additionally, tendinitis is also caused by a range of recreational activities such as tennis, golf, etc. Indeed, some forms of tendinitis are named after the sports that exacerbate the issue such as tennis and golfer elbow, pitcher’s and swimmer’s shoulder, and jumper’s knee.
What are the causes of tendinitis?
Tendinitis impacts millions of people across the world. From minor irritation to major manifestation, tendinitis is caused by many different things.
The most commonly seen cause of tendinitis is repetitive motion and overuse of any joint because of a specific athletic, occupational, or household activity. Tendinitis is also seen as a manifestation of extreme trauma or thermal injury to the tendon.
Poor posture at work and home, poorly performed exercises at the gym, and poor conditioning while playing sports also cause tendinitis.
Besides physical action, tendinitis can occur as a side effect of specific antibiotics like ciprofloxacin and levofloxacin, as well as a symptom of certain diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, gout, thyroid problems, obesity, and diabetes.
Where does tendinitis occur?
Tendinitis can occur at any joint of muscle and bone. However, it is commonly seen in the elbow, shoulder, hip, base of the thumb, knee, and Achilles tendon.
While tendinitis can impact any person, it is largely seen in adults above the age of 40. There is a higher incidence of tendinitis as we age because tendons start to weaken and become less elastic and, therefore, are less able to tolerate stress, and tear more easily.
What are the symptoms of tendinitis?
The first sign of tendinitis is pain and soreness at the site of the tendon and the surrounding muscles. The pain slowly builds if preventative measures are not taken. In some cases, patients can experience sharp, sudden, and severe pain, and even more so if there are calcium deposits at the joint.
This is followed by loss of motion or slowing of movement in the body part that is impacted. In cases that impact the shoulder, patients can suffer from adhesive capsulitis, or frozen shoulder.
How is tendinitis diagnosed?
It is important to start treatment for tendinitis as quickly as possible so as to avoid unnecessary worsening of the problem. The process starts with a general physical exam. The doctor will ask you to describe the condition: where the pain occurs, when it occurs, and how often.
Some of the tests you might have to undergo include a selective tissue tension test to locate the impacted tendon, palpation of the tendon to pinpoint location, X-rays or MRIs to exclude bone or muscle issues, and fluid extraction from the impacted area to rule out infection.
How is tendinitis treated?
Once the doctor determines that you have tendinitis, you will be told to follow a certain treatment regime. The focus of the process is to heal the injured tendon.
Towards that end, the doctor will take steps to lower the inflammation and reduce the pain. The patient will be required to limit or stop any activity that impacts the swollen tendon.
To reduce the swelling, patients are asked to rest, wrap the tendon, or elevate it. Treatment also includes icing the impacted tendon for 15-20 minutes every few hours, for three to five days.
In some cases, patients might be asked to take pain reduction medication such as aspirin or ibuprofen. Additionally, for specific forms of tendinitis, patients could use support equipment such as an elbow band for tennis elbow, a splint for the knee or hand, or a brace for the ankle.
Doctors might also recommend an ultrasound to improve blood flow, an electric current treatment that pushes corticosteroids directly to the swollen tendon, massage, stretching exercises, or a strengthening program for the joint.
In the extreme case of a torn tendon, surgery might be recommended to repair the injury.
What can I do to prevent tendinitis?
Taking certain measures during your daily activities may prevent swelling and flare-ups. Some of the easy steps include stretching exercises before any workout or athletic activity, cushioning joints that will be impacted during movement with protective gear, taking frequent breaks from repetitive activities, good posture, and careful handling of heavy objects. Additionally, strengthening exercises for specific tendons are also recommended.
When you see the first sign of tendinitis, you should stop the activity, ice the area, and talk to your doctor as soon as possible.