Don’t Let Tendonitis Take over Your Life! Understand the Causes and Treatments Now
Tendinitis is inflammation of the tendon sheath, which is a fluid-filled sac surrounding a tendon. It is commonly referred to as tennis elbow. Tendons connect muscles to bones and help movement. Tendon injuries may occur due to overuse, repetitive motion, trauma, or genetics. When they become inflamed, pain occurs in the muscles that use them. In some cases, the tendon becomes thickened and swollen, causing increased pressure on surrounding nerves. Tendonitis may occur at any age but tends to affect those who play sports, work out, or have repetitive motion injuries.
What does tendinitis look like?
When tendinitis is present, the affected area may feel warm, tender, stiff, swollen, or painful. You may notice redness, discoloration, or bruising around the injured area. Your doctor may perform a physical examination to determine if you have any underlying conditions that could cause tendonitis. He/she may order blood tests to check for infections, autoimmune disorders, rheumatoid arthritis (RA), lupus, diabetes, thyroid problems, vitamin B12 deficiency, or cancer.
What causes tendon injuries?
Many factors contribute to the development of tendon injuries. Overuse injuries result from repeated use of a particular body part without adequate recovery time between uses. Improper training technique includes using weights incorrectly, performing exercises improperly, or not warming up before exercising. Repetitive motions, including throwing a ball repeatedly, typing on a keyboard, playing guitar, and tennis serve, have been shown to increase the risk of developing tendon injuries. Lack of rest after exercise increases the chances of injury. Poor nutrition can lead to decreased blood flow to the area, causing inflammation and swelling.
Tendinitis: The symptoms
Sudden onset of sharp shooting pains in the area of the joint. Initially, the pain is minor and then starts increasing in intensity. Resting the injured area reduces the pain; however, it does not heal completely. Swelling around the area increases the pain further. The stiffness of the limb makes movement difficult. Loss of range of motion causes difficulty in performing the daily activity. If left untreated, tendinitis becomes chronic and may result in permanent damage to the tendon.
Symptoms of Tendinitis:
- Pain in the joint where the tendon attaches to the bone
- Swelling and warmth around the injured area
- Stiffness, weakness, or cramping in the arm or hand after using it
- Difficulty holding objects or turning pages
Who all can get Tendinitis?
- People who work out: Tendinitis is a condition where the tendon becomes inflamed due to overuse. Tendons connect muscle groups to bones and allow movement. When muscles contract, they pull on the tendons causing them to stretch. Over time, repeated stretching causes inflammation and pain in the tendon. Common activities that cause tendinitis include running, tennis, basketball, weightlifting, swimming, cycling, rowing, skiing, skateboarding, and golfing.
- People who play sports: Sports injuries often result in tendinitis. Injuries occur when the body’s protective mechanisms fail. Tendon tears are among the most common types of sports injuries. A tear occurs when the tendon is stretched beyond its normal range of motion. If the injury is not treated properly, the tendon may become damaged permanently.
- People who have arthritis: Arthritis is a painful joint disease caused by damage to cartilage, bone, ligaments, and/or synovial fluid. Arthritis affects nearly 50 million Americans and is the leading cause of disability in adults older than 65 years old. Symptoms include stiffness, swelling, tenderness, loss of function, and even deformity. Treatment includes rest, physical therapy, medication, injections, surgery, and sometimes amputation.
- People who use vibrating tools: Vibrating tools are commonly used in construction, carpentry, plumbing, and electrical jobs. Vibration causes the tool to move back and forth rapidly, resulting in repetitive strain injuries. These injuries can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome, tenosynovitis (tendon inflammation), and trigger finger.
- People who lift heavy objects: Lifting weights is great exercise, but if done incorrectly, it can lead to serious injuries. Lifting weights improperly places excessive pressure on certain joints, including the shoulder, elbow, wrist, knee, ankle, hip, and neck. Repeated lifting can weaken the muscles around these joints, making them susceptible to injury.
- People who carry heavy loads: Carrying heavy loads is hard on the body. Carrying heavy loads puts undue stress on the spine, legs, arms, shoulders, and hips. Carrying heavy loads can also put additional stress on the knees, ankles, and feet. Carrying heavy loads requires proper technique and training.
- People who sit at computers: Sitting at a computer all day can be harmful to the body. Sitting for long periods can increase blood pressure, heart rate, and cholesterol levels. Sitting for prolonged periods increases the risk of developing diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular problems.
How do I treat tendinitis?
There are several ways to treat tendonitis. In some cases, rest and ice therapy is recommended. Ice packs can help reduce swelling and relieve pain. If you use heat therapy, make sure to keep the skin covered and avoid direct contact with hot water bottles or heating pads. Heat therapy can increase circulation and loosen tight muscles.
Over-the-counter medications may provide relief. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) work well to decrease joint pain and swelling. Cortisone injections may temporarily alleviate symptoms. Physical therapy may improve the range of motion and strengthen weak muscles. Surgery may be necessary if conservative treatment fails.
- The first step in treating tendon injuries is limiting activity.
- Ice packs applied to sore spots for 20 minutes three times per day can reduce swelling and relieve pain.
- A compression wrap can be placed around the affected joint to provide extra pressure and decrease swelling.
- Medications such as anti-inflammatory drugs or cortisone injections may help reduce pain.
- Physical therapy can improve the range of motion and strengthen weak muscles.
- Surgery may be necessary in severe cases.
Frequently Asked Question on Tendinitis
What causes tendinitis?
Tendinitis results from the overuse of certain parts of the body. Commonly affected areas include the shoulders, elbows, wrists, hands, neck, back, knees, ankles, feet, hips, and groin. Overuse of these joints often leads to injury, especially if movements are performed incorrectly. In addition, poor posture, arthritis, obesity, diabetes, and smoking can cause tendinitis.
How do I know if I have tendinitis?
If you feel sharp pains along the tendon, swelling, tenderness, or loss of range of motion, you could have tendinitis. If you notice symptoms after using your arm frequently or repeatedly, seek medical attention immediately.
What should I expect from treatment?
Most people recover without surgery or medication. However, ice packs, rest, and anti-inflammatory medications help reduce discomfort. Your doctor may prescribe physical therapy to strengthen weak muscles and improve flexibility. Surgery is rarely necessary unless tendinitis persists and worsens.
Is tendinitis contagious?
Yes, tendinitis is highly infectious. Make sure to wash your hands before touching your eyes, nose, mouth, or anything else. Also, avoid sharing towels and clothing. Contact your physician if you suspect you have been exposed to someone with tendinitis.
When should I seek medical attention?
If you notice any changes in your performance or feel pain while doing activities you normally do, talk to your doctor about seeking treatment. If the symptoms don’t go away after two weeks or if they worsen, then it’s best to get help.