Tendinitis, a soft tissue rheumatic syndrome, is one of the most common causes of acute pain in the tendons. Here’s what you should know about the condition and its treatments.
For most people, pain in a tendon occurs after overuse. Most cases of tendinitis resolve on their own with rest, but many people experience nagging pain that limits their mobility and quality of life. Some cases develop into a tendon rupture that requires surgery to repair.
What is Tendinitis?
The tendons are incredibly strong, fibrous cords of tissue that attach muscles to bones. In conjunction with the joints, ligaments, muscles and bones, they enable movement in the body. When a particular tendon is injured or stressed over and over, the tissues can become irritated and even inflamed. This results in pain and tenderness at the affected site, a condition known as tendinitis.
What Causes Tendinitis?
Most often, tendinitis is caused by the repetitive motion of a particular part of the body. For instance, a builder may experience tendonitis in the shoulder, wrist or fingers from repeatedly lifting heavy objects or using certain tools. Athletes may develop tendonitis in the shoulders, knees or elbows due to constant throwing, swinging or jumping. People who have physical hobbies, like gardening, playing musical instruments or woodworking, can also develop tendonitis from repeated movements. Less commonly, people who experience sudden injury, like that sustained in a car accident, can develop the condition over time.
Symptoms of Tendinitis
The most common symptom of tendinitis is pain and tenderness in the affected tendon. Other symptoms include:
- Swelling in affected area
- Stiffness or decreased range of motion in affected area
- Pain that is sudden and severe
- Pain that gets worse over time
It is vital that athletes and individuals who engage in regular physical activity practice proper form to reduce the instance of injury. It’s also important for individuals with physical jobs or hobbies to find tools and apparatuses that aren’t too heavy for them to safely maneuver.
Activities That May Cause Tendinitis
A variety of sports, hobbies and physical activities can lead to tendinitis:
- Playing Musical Instruments
- Sports (Tennis, Baseball, Golf, Rowing, Running, Basketball)
- Tennis Elbow, Golfer’s Elbow, and Jumper’s Knee are common types of tendinitis that occur in athletes. Achilles tendonitis, which occurs in the Achilles tendon, is most common in runners and casual athletes.
People who suffer from conditions that weaken the joints, such as rheumatoid arthritis, may be more likely to develop tendinitis. People over 40 are also more likely to develop the condition, as the tendons naturally weaken as we age.
How is Tendinitis Diagnosed?
Tendinitis is typically diagnosed using a physical exam. Long-term tendinitis may cause calcium deposits, tendon thickening and dislocation; in these cases, your doctor may recommend x-rays or an MRI for proper diagnosis and treatment.
Treatment for Tendinitis
The most common treatment for tendinitis is rest. However, for more severe cases, further treatments may be needed:
- Anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- Physical therapy
- Corticosteroid injections
If your tendinitis is especially severe, you may need surgery to repair the affected tendon. Repeated tendinitis in the rotator cuff, for instance, may cause tears or scar tissue in the tendon that requires surgery.