Tendons are thick cords that connect your muscles to your bones. Tendonitis is a condition where a tendon becomes irritated or inflamed.
What is tendonitis?
Tendons are flexible and tough, and range in size: from small tendons in your hands, to much larger ones, like the ones in your thigh muscles.
If you get small tears in your tendons, or they get damaged or swollen, you experience tendonitis. Tendonitis most commonly affects the shoulder, elbow, knee, wrist and Achilles heel.
What are the symptoms of tendonitis?
The key symptoms of tendonitis include:
- a dull pain in the area or joint surrounding the tendon
- pain that increases when you move the affected area
- swelling, occasionally with heat and redness
Symptoms will be slightly different, according to the tendon that’s affected:
- rotator cuff tendonitis – a dull, aching shoulder pain that can cause problems with sleep, as it worsens at night.
- tennis elbow – pain in the outer elbow, which can spread to the forearm and wrist.
- golfer’s elbow – pain in the inner elbow
- de Quervain’s disease – pain at the back of the wrist, near the bottom of the thumb
- jumper’s knee – pain often below the kneecap (but occasionally above it)
- Achilles tendonitis – pain at the back of the heel / 2 – 4 inches above the heel
What causes tendonitis?
Anyone can get tendonitis, but some people are more likely to than others.
Common risk factors and causes of tendonitis include:
- Repetitive, high-intensity exercise – exercise that involves sudden, swift movements such as running, jumping and throwing is more likely to cause tendonitis
- Getting older – you’re more likely to develop tendonitis as you get older
- Those with certain illnesses, such as rheumatoid arthritis or diabetes, and certain antibiotics
- Having bad posture while exercising or at work
How is tendonitis diagnosed?
Your doctor will ask you about your medical history, including details of any prior injuries, alongside information about the exercise you do. They will ask you to move your affected area in certain ways while they look for any problems in movement and tenderness.
In some instances, your doctor may take an x-ray or MRI scan to try to get a better idea of whether you have tendonitis or another potential condition.
How is tendonitis treated?
For mild tendonitis, heat or ice therapy (applying heat or ice to the affected area once or twice a day, for 10-15 minutes), physical therapy and over-the-counter medications – such as ibuprofen or naproxen – can all help. Physical therapy usually means you meet with a physical therapist once to learn some gentle movement exercises, but then can continue with the exercises on your own at home to ease your shoulder pain.
For more severe cases of tendonitis, you may be given a steroid injection or may be recommended surgery to remove the inflammatory tissue that’s causing your tendonitis.
If you’re unsure what treatment you should go for, or the above treatments don’t work for you, our team of expert specialists are here to help