Tendons are tough, flexible tissues that connect our muscles and bones. Tendinitis is a common injury that occurs when a tendon is irritated, overstretched or injured, causing inflammation. Tendinitis is more common among active people, those with jobs that require repetitive movements, and older people. Read on to learn everything you need to know about this common joint issue, including causes, symptoms, types, treatment, and prevention.
Causes of Tendinitis
Tendinitis can have many causes. Sudden injuries, poor form, arthritis, diabetes, joint deformities, and infection can all lead to tendinitis. Repetitive motion can create inflammation in our joints over time. As we age, our tendons become weaker and less elastic, increasing our chances of developing tendinitis.
The cause of your tendinitis may lie in areas away from the site of pain. Our joints don't work in isolation; rather, they work in cooperation with each other along a kinetic chain. If you have weakness or incorrect movement in one joint, it will affect all the related joints along the kinetic chain. For instance, tight hip flexors can cause your gluteus muscles to weaken, which then changes the movement of your thigh, putting excess stress on your kneecap. Prolonged stress on your kneecap can lead to painful tendinitis.
Symptoms of Tendinitis
The symptoms of tendinitis occur at joints where the tendon attaches to a bone. Some common symptoms are pain that increases with movement but improves with rest, pain that worsens at night, tenderness at the joint, weakness, swelling, heat, redness, the feeling of crackling or grating during joint movement, and stiffness after a period of inactivity. Occasionally, tendinitis sufferers will develop a lump on the affected joint as well.
Types of Tendinitis
Tendinitis can occur at any joint, but the most common kinds are:
Achilles tendinitis is the inflammation of the Achilles tendon found between your heel and calf muscle. Achilles tendinitis is very common, especially in runners.
Swimmer's or pitcher's shoulder
This is the inflammation of the tendon found at the top of your shoulder joint. Swimmers and pitchers are especially prone to this kind of tendinitis due to the repeated stress on their shoulders. This kind of tendinitis causes pain when your arm is moved upward and may cause pain when lying on the affected shoulder.
Tennis elbow is the inflammation of tendons that connect your forearm muscles to your elbow. This form of tendinitis is common among tennis players as a result of repeated stress on the elbow joint when swinging their arm. Pain is felt on the outside of your elbow and may extend down into the wrist.
Golfer's elbow is inflammation of the tendons in the inner elbow. Named after its most common sufferers, the pain in golfer's elbow is on the inside of the elbow. Pain may extend into the forearm and get worse when flexing your hand.
Trigger finger or thumb
If you have trigger finger or thumb, your finger may be painful, swollen, and feel like it is "locking" when you try to bend it. This type of tendinitis occurs most often in the ring finger or thumb.
The inflammation of tendons in the wrist is most commonly associated with repetitive work injuries. Computer users, writers, and those working on factory production lines are at high risk for developing wrist tendinitis.
Jumper's knee is the inflammation of the patellar tendon that connects your shinbone in the lower leg to your kneecap. Jumper's knee is common among those that play running and jumping sports such as basketball.
Tendinitis may resolve on its own over time, but there are many treatments available to reduce pain, aid healing, and prevent a recurrence or further injury. Be sure to consult your physician for a diagnosis.
RICE - Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation
Take a break from any activities that are causing or aggravating your tendinitis. Place cold packs on the affected area to reduce inflammation. Compress and support the joint by wrapping it with a tight bandage. Elevate the joint to reduce stress and strain.
Use a support device
Support devices such as a sling, brace, or splints provide support to affected areas. Braces and splits also allow the joint to rest without restricting movement.
Over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or naproxen are effective at treating tendinitis pain and inflammation. Your doctor may prescribe pain relievers if your pain is severe. Other helpful OTC medications include pain-relieving creams, patches, gels, and sprays.
Corticosteroid is a powerful anti-inflammatory agent administered in the doctor's office. Corticosteroid is injected into the affected joint and often provides immediate pain relief.
If your tendinitis is due to repetitive or incorrect motion, your doctor may recommend a round of physical or occupational therapy. A physical therapist can administer a variety of healing therapies and design an exercise program specific to your tendinitis. A therapist can teach movement modification, correct posture issues, and recommend devices that will prevent an injury recurrence.
Surgery is a last resort when treating tendinitis. Surgery is needed if the tendon has lesions or has ruptured.
How to Prevent Tendinitis
Not all cases of tendinitis can be avoided, but you can reduce your chances of getting tendinitis by using the following tips.
- Avoid activities that cause repetitive stress on affected joints.
- Adding cross-training to your exercise regimen will reduce excessive joint strain.
- Learn new and better ways of moving your body to prevent future issues. A licensed physical therapist can help you strengthen supporting muscles and learn proper movement. If your injury is due to a sports activity, consider taking lessons to improve your technique.
- Always take the time to stretch before and after vigorous activity to improve your range of motion and reduce joint trauma.
- If your injury is due to repetitive motion at work, change your workstation to support healthy joints. Simple changes such as chair height adjustments and supportive desk pads can protect you from future injury.
- Don't be a Weekend Warrior. Playing hard on the weekends (or in the warm months after a winter off) can make you especially prone to tendinitis. Stay consistently active to prevent injury.
- Reduce your overall inflammation. Eat a diet of mostly whole foods and add supplements when needed. Consider adding supplements that reduce inflammation and help your body heal faster.
Don't let tendinitis cause you to miss out on your favorite activities. Contact the professionals at the biostation and live your best life today.