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Facts About Tendinitis

What is tendinitis?

Tendinitis is swelling and pain in a tendon, the tissue that connects muscles to bones. It is a common condition typically caused by repeated injuries to a tendon.

Who can get it?

You are more likely to get tendinitis if you do repetitive movements each day or put stress on your joints. For instance, carpenters, gardeners, musicians and athletes often get tendinitis. You are also more likely to get tendinitis as you get older.

What types are there?

Many types of tendinitis are named after the activities that cause them. Here are some common types:

  • Tennis elbow, an injury to the outer elbow tendon, often caused by repetitive wrist turning or hand gripping.
  • Golfer’s elbow, an injury to the inner elbow tendon, often caused by repetitive wrist turning or hand gripping.
  • Biceps tendinitis, which causes pain in the front or side of the shoulder that may travel down the arm. Pain is sometimes felt when the arm is raised overhead.
  • Rotator cuff tendinitis, which causes pain at the tip of the shoulder and the upper, outer arm. The pain may intensify when reaching, pushing, pulling, lifting, raising your arm or lying on your shoulder.
  • Jumper’s knee, common among people who play sports that require jumping (such as basketball) which causes the knee tendon to become inflamed or tear from overuse.
  • Achilles tendinitis, tendinitis in the tendon on the back of the heel.

What are its symptoms?

Tendinitis causes pain just outside a joint, especially when you move it, as well as swelling.

What causes it?

Tendinitis is usually caused by repeated injuries to a tendon. Infection, arthritis, gout, thyroid disease and diabetes are also known to cause tendinitis.

Is there a test for tendinitis?

To diagnose tendinitis, your doctor will probably ask questions about your medical history and conduct a physical examination. He or she will probably also ask you to describe your pain and when and where you hurt and whether anything makes the pain better or worse.

Other tests include:

  • Touching the joint to see how significant the swelling is.
  • X-rays, which do not show tendons but can help rule out other problems.
  • A magnetic resonance imaging test (MRI), which can show whether the tendon is swollen.
  • Taking fluid from the swollen area to test for an infection
  • Injecting an anesthetic to see if the pain goes away.

How is it treated?

Treating tendinitis can reduce pain and swelling. Some common treatments include:

  • Resting and elevating the injured area.
  • Limiting your activity to reduce further injury.
  • Taking medicines that will reduce swelling, such as aspirin, naproxen, or ibuprofen.
  • Gentle stretching and strengthening exercises.
  • Applying compression to the injured area.
  • Soft tissue massage.
  • Putting a brace, splint, or band on the injured joint.

Your doctor may also recommend ice for sudden, severe injuries. However, most cases of tendinitis are long term and ice will not help. If your tendinitis does not improve, your doctor may inject a medicine into the area surrounding the swollen tendon.

If the tendon is completely torn, you may need surgery. If your tendon is partially or completely torn, you may also need several months of physical therapy and exercise to restore your strength and to prevent further injury.

Who treats tendinitis?

  • Primary care physicians.
  • Orthopaedists who treat and perform surgery for bone and joint diseases.
  • Physical therapists who help to improve joint function.
  • Rheumatologists who treat arthritis and other diseases of the bones, joints and muscles.

Is there any way to prevent tendinitis?

  • You can do some things to reduce the risk and severity:
  • Warm up and stretch before exercising.
  • Strengthen the muscles around your joints.
  • Take breaks from repetitive tasks.
  • Increase the gripping surface on tools by using gloves, grip tape or other padding. Use an oversized grip on golf clubs.
  • Use two hands to hold heavy tools or hit a backhand in tennis.
  • Don’t sit still for long periods — and have good posture.
  • Begin new activities and exercises slowly.
  • Cease activities that cause pain.
  • Cushion the affected joint. Use foam for kneeling or elbow pads. Increase the gripping surface of tools with gloves or padding. Apply grip tape or an oversized grip to golf clubs.
  • Consider talking with your doctor or physical therapist before starting new exercises and activities.

If you’re feeling this kind of pain in or around your joints, make an appointment with the Orthopedic Performance Institute. The sooner you do, the sooner you can get back in the game.

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