Tendonitis can be a frustrating, uncomfortable and recurring condition. Having the correct information about it can help you narrow down your options and make the best decisions for your body.
While learning how to treat tendonitis involves care from a medical professional, managing your symptoms effectively is a helpful way to supplement that.
At Healthy Directions, we are here to give you the keys to unlocking your optimal health. Here are some ways you can support your tendon health so that you can stay as comfortable as possible for as long as you are able.
What Is Tendonitis?
To start, what is tendonitis?
Tendonitis is an irritation of a tendon, the part of the anatomy that connects our muscle to bone. This thick, fibrous cord is made of flexible but strong collagen tissue, and it helps create movement by transmitting the mechanical force that causes a muscle contraction to the bone. They are similar to ligaments, which connect bones to other bones.
Tendonitis can happen in any of the tendons present in the body (and there are around 4,000 of them), but it is most likely around the most commonly used joints — elbows, heels, knees, shoulders, and wrists.
The signs and symptoms of tendonitis occur primarily at the area where the tendon attaches to the bone. They include dull aches (especially with movement), tenderness, and mild swelling. Tendonitis can also be either acute (short-term) or chronic (long-term).
What Causes Tendonitis?
While a sudden injury may trigger tendonitis, it is far more likely to result from repetitive motion or overuse. In many cases, these motions occur during daily activities or by performing a hobby. Specifically, when performing those repetitive movements using improper techniques, you may increase your risk of developing tendonitis. That is why so many common nicknames for tendonitis involve hobbies, like tennis elbow, pitcher’s shoulder, golfer’s elbow, and jumper’s knee.
In addition, while age isn’t a cause, it can be a risk factor. As the body ages, the tendons naturally become less flexible than before. With less flexible tendons, there is also an increased risk of developing an injury or tendonitis. The risk is also higher in women.
Once you have been diagnosed with tendonitis, research shows that you are more likely to end up with the condition again. Every time the tendon becomes irritated and swollen, it weakens a little more.
How To Treat Tendonitis In Addition to Medical Care
In addition to seeking care from a medical professional, supporting your tendon health can help your musculoskeletal system function at its most optimal level.
In most cases, this revolves around reducing the signs and symptoms. Here are a few tips and tricks:
- Ice - Swelling is one of the most common signs of tendonitis. To help reduce that swelling, many professionals recommend using ice packs. Remember, you never want to apply ice directly to the skin, and never for more than a few minutes at a time.
- Rest - Although it can be tempting to push through discomfort, you must rest when you have tendonitis. Your body needs time and energy to heal, and continuing to use that tendon only delays the healing process. However, you don’t want to rest too long as that can cause joint stiffening.
- Compression - In addition to ice and rest, compression of the affected joint can help to reduce the swelling. Don’t wrap the joint too tight, however, as circulation is necessary for the healing process.
- Elevation - If you are dealing with tendonitis on the bottom half of your body, elevation can help. Specifically, when resting, try to keep the affected joint above heart level to reduce swelling and improve circulation.
Exercise, in moderation, can be a helpful prevention technique. Strengthening the muscles that you use frequently can substantially reduce the risk of injury, as can taking the time to stretch beforehand adequately. Weight-bearing exercises, cross-training, and alternating high- and low-impact exercises can also help support the health of your tendons. Physical therapy may also be beneficial, and you can work with a physical therapist to determine the best course of action.
If repetitive motion at work triggers your tendonitis, look at how you can make your workspace more ergonomically correct. Specifically, pay attention to the position of your wrists, upper back, and shoulders. You may need to change desks, chairs, or mouse pads to help reduce your risk.
In addition, you must learn how to listen to your body. Often, our bodies give us clues that there may be an issue long before the more significant signs and symptoms occur. Learning how to recognize them can stop you from figuring out how to treat tendonitis by helping you prevent it before it becomes a problem.
While most tendonitis can heal without surgical intervention, surgery may be necessary in some cases. That is why it is essential to see your healthcare provider if you are experiencing any new or worsening issues. Your doctor can perform an ultrasound or MRI scans to investigate your symptoms.
If the injury to your tendon involves it having torn away from the bone, or if you have had multiple bouts of tendonitis in the same area, surgical repair may be necessary. Your doctor may also recommend ESWT or extracorporeal shock wave therapy.
It takes around 12 weeks to heal completely from tendonitis surgery, although it is usually done on an outpatient basis.
While you may not be able to learn how to treat tendonitis at home effectively, there are ways that you can help support your musculoskeletal health and reduce your risk. Awareness of what causes tendonitis and what you can do to help prevent it can keep your body functioning at its best for years to come.
At Healthy Directions, we want to use our experience to help you reveal your best, most optimal health. Whether that means supporting your joint health, helping you find more energy, or just giving you the tools you need on a general level, our passion for wellness can lead you down a path to better health.
Tendinitis - Symptoms and causes | Mayo Clinic
Tendons: Injuries and Healing | Cornell Research