Tendons play an important role in how our bodies move. They are the connective tissue adhering the muscles to the bones, and they do not usually receive the attention they deserve until they get injured.
Tendonitis is a common injury to the tendons which causes pain and limited usability of the affected area. This injury typically occurs from over-use, repetitive motions, or a strain. Similar to a pulled muscle or a bone fracture, injured tendons require rest and time to heal.
Let’s take a closer look at what is tendonitis (also known as tendinitis), what are the symptoms of this condition, and what is recommended for treating the pain and healing the inflammation.
What is Tendonitis?
Tendonitis is a condition in which the tendons, the connective tissue between the muscles and bones, become irritated, or inflamed. It is often a sign of overuse and can come as a result of strain or repetitive movement.
This injury can be short-term (acute) or long-term (chronic), taking anywhere from a couple weeks to several months to heal. Healing time depends on the severity of the injury and how well the affected area is allowed to rest. It is possible to develop tendonitis with any tendon, but certain areas are more prone to this injury. Tendonitis is most common near the shoulders, elbows, wrists, knees, and heels.
Here are some familiar names for various types of tendonitis people experience:
- Tennis elbow
- Golfer's elbow
- Pitcher's shoulder
- Swimmer's shoulder
- Mother’s wrist
- Jumper's knee
- Achilles Tendonitis
If you have had tendonitis, then you probably pay more mind to preventing this painful condition than those who haven’t experienced it. The best ways to prevent tendonitis from developing are to do stretches and warmups before strenuous activity and to take regular breaks during repetitive motions, alternating sides whenever possible.
The main symptoms of tendonitis are pain and tenderness around the affected tendon. This pain may come on gradually or suddenly. The pain is often described as a dull ache or radiating pain and may get worse with more movement. Another symptom could be mild swelling with some redness or heat. Reduced functionality is another symptom that some people with tendonitis experience. In these cases, the joint is not able to move in all its normal directions or with as much strength.
Treatment At Home
At-home treatment for tendonitis may be sufficient. However, in some cases, it is necessary to see a doctor or even get surgery on the area.
Try these treatments at home first:
Avoid Repetitive Movements
Continuing to move in the ways that created the injury can worsen the tendonitis and increase the time it takes to heal. Pushing through the pain will lead to a longer recovery. So, we encourage you to rest and avoid repetitive movements to allow the injury to heal.
Ice and Heat
Place ice on the injury for 10 minutes at a time, several times a day. This will help reduce pain and swelling. Apply heat to the area for 30 minutes at a time 2-3 times a day to reduce swelling and discomfort.
Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications are available to take orally or apply topically. These medications are also used as pain relief, but it is important to take them as directed to reduce inflammation rather than only when you are experiencing pain.
The pain of tendonitis often goes away in 3-6 weeks. However, it can take anywhere from 6 weeks to 6 months in some cases. Healing tendonitis often takes longer if the tendon is not given a chance to rest.
Advanced Medical Treatment
If symptoms do not improve after 3-6 weeks of treatment at home, visit your doctor. Advanced treatment may be necessary. This could include:
- Corticosteroid injections: Steroid injections are often immediately effective in decreasing pain and inflammation.
- Physical therapy: Exercise to improve range of motion for the injured area.
- Surgery: In rare, severe cases that are not responsive to the aforementioned treatments, surgery may be needed. The injury is very unlikely to return after surgery.
Dr. Michael K James and his team at Teton Foot and Ankle are dedicated to providing excellent podiatry service to the Idaho Falls community. Contact our office if you would like to be seen or if we can answer any further questions you may have regarding tendonitis and other such conditions.