There are tendons all over the body and they are like thick cords that connect the muscles to the bones such as the knees, elbows, and shoulder. When tendon swells up and becomes painful after a tendon injury, it is called tendonitis (also tendinitis).
What causes tendonitis?
Tendonitis has many different types, depending on which area of the body is affected. For instance, if knees are affected, it is called patellar tendonitis (jumper’s knee); if elbow, it is called tennis elbow or golfer’s elbow while it is referred to as calcific tendonitis or supraspinatus tendonitis if the affected area is the shoulder. De Quervain’s disease is the name for wrists and thumbs tendonitis, while heels pains are called Achilles tendonitis. Upper arm pains, on the other hand, are called biceps tendonitis.
The most common cause of tendonitis is the sudden, sharp movements or repetitive exercise, such as jumping, throwing, and running. The poor or incorrect posture at work such as using of keyboard and mouse can be an additional cause for it. Nevertheless, many activities can cause tendonitis including gardening, raking, carpentry, cleaning the house, painting, tennis, golf, skiing, scrubbing, and even shoveling.
Poor conditioning before doing an exercise or playing a sport could add to a person’s risk. Moreover, there are other risk factors to consider such as:
- The differences of your legs or arthritis in a joint. These cases are the abnormal placing of the bone and it stresses soft-tissue structures.
- Stresses from other condition such as gout, psoriatic arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid disorders, or unusual medication reactions.
- An infection can occasionally cause tendonitis, especially an infection from a dog or cat bites to hands or fingers.
- “Weekend warriors” refer to the people who play and exercise hard only on weekends. Tendonitis does commonly happen to them because they are doing too much and too soon of some movements which the tendons are not used with.
Patient suffering from it may feel pain in a tendon (e.g. knee, elbow, shoulder) which gets worse when he or she moves. The patient may also experience having a difficulty moving the tendon and may see a lump along it. Feeling a grating or crackling sensation when moving the tendon may also felt plus another symptom such as swelling may manifest. Swelling is sometimes accompanied by heat or redness.
If you wonder who is commonly affected by tendonitis, it is the elders whose age is over 40. As human age, tendons tend to age with them, and they can tolerate only less stress. They also become lesser elastic and easier to tear.
How to Treat Tendonitis?
Tendinitis is also called overuse tendinopathy. It is diagnosed by a physical exam. Doctors may conduct ultrasound or MRI scans to better determine tendon dislocations, thickening, and tears. However, these are usually unnecessary for newly diagnosed cases.
The goal of tendonitis treatment is to restore movement to the joint without pain as well as to maintain strength in its surrounding muscles while giving the tissue time to heal.
Self-treatment is applicable for tendonitis within 2 to 3 weeks. The most common treatment that is done is the RICE therapy, which can bring down the swelling and support the injury. RICE can be applied 2 to 3 days.
Stop doing the exercise or activity that caused the injury and take some rest until you feel better.
Put an ice pack on the injury for up to 20 minutes every 2 to 3 hours.
Wrap a bandage around the injury to support it.
Keep the injured area elevated when sitting or lying down by placing it on top of a pillow.
The physical therapists can propose some exercises that could rest the tendon while strengthening the surrounding muscle groups and maintaining overall muscle tone.
Pharmacists can also prescribe some painkillers in the form of a tablet, cream, or gel. For instance, paracetamol and ibuprofen can help decrease the pain. Just wait for 48 hours after the injury before taking any medication as it can slow down the healing process.
If your condition did not improve in a week after trying either of the two treatment above, you need to see your doctor. You may need some of the advanced treatments which includes
Corticosteroid is often called “steroids” and it is often used because of its quick work to decrease inflammation and pain.
Physical therapy is most beneficial for frozen shoulders. It includes range-of-motion exercises and splinting (forearm, thumb, bands).
Surgery is rarely used. It is only needed when the treatments available doesn’t seem to work.
Depending on the severity of the injury, tendonitis may take weeks to months of healing. If you are experiencing any of the below, you should immediately contact your doctor.
- General illness or multiple sites of pain
- Swelling redness, and warmth
- Fever over 100 degrees Fahrenheit
- Inability to move the affected area
How to Prevent Having a Tendonitis?
First and foremost, you must not over-exercise tired muscles. You may want to start a new sport that does not require training or practice, and stick to the same repetitive exercises.
We’ve mentioned earlier that tendonitis is most often caused by a sudden, sharp movement or repetitive exercise. To avoid the risk, you should warm up first before exercising and also stretch afterward. You should also take regular breaks from repetitive exercise and build your activity level gradually. If your pain occurs while you are on training, stop immediately then try again later. If the pain recurs, completely stop the activity for the day.
You should also make sure to wear the proper footwear for the chosen exercise.
If you already have an injured tendon, prevent from swelling it during the first 2 to 3 days. Stay away from heat such as hot baths and heat packs. Alcohol and massages can also cause swelling so you better avoid this as well. If you can move the injured area without any pain, keep on moving it so tendon doesn’t become stiff.