WHAT IS A TENDON?
A tendon is a strong band of tissue that connects your muscles to bones. They’re made of collagen, making them fibrous and able to withstand tension. Tendons transmit force generated by your muscle to allow movement at a joint.
The thickest tendon in the body is the Achilles tendon that runs down the back of the calf to the heel. The longest tendon is the plantaris tendon — it is also part of the calf. The smallest tendon, the stapedius tendon, is found in the inner ear.
WHAT IS TENDINITIS?
Tendinitis occurs when a tendon becomes inflamed or irritated. It’s quite a common condition that is sometimes called tennis elbow, golfer’s elbow, swimmer’s shoulder, pitcher’s shoulder or jumper’s knee — depending on the location of the problem.
WHERE CAN IT OCCUR?
Tendinitis can occur in any tendon, but it’s most commonly seen in the heels, calves, knees, shoulders, elbows, wrists and hands.
You probably frequently hear about professional athletes tearing their Achilles tendon — a common injury in sports.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF TENDINITIS?
Tendinitis symptoms can be persistent or come and go. Sometimes, a particular activity or overuse will aggravate the symptoms.
- Aching sensation around the affected joint or limb
- Pain when moving the affected joint
- Tenderness when touching the area
- Slight swelling around the joint
WHAT ARE THE CAUSES OF TENDINITIS?
Tendinitis can be caused by many different things; however, repetitive movement and sports are the most common culprits.
- Playing certain sports
- Jobs/hobbies that involve repetitive movements
- Some types of arthritis, such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis
- Metabolic diseases, like diabetes
- Poor posture
Tendinitis usually develops over time — it is rarely caused by a sudden injury.
WHO IS AT RISK FOR TENDINITIS?
Sports that have repetitive motions can cause tendinitis:
- Long Jump/High Jump
Tendinitis is even more common in athletes when technique is poor.
It also occurs in those who have jobs that involve repetitive motions, such as working with hand tools or on an assembly line. Those who use vibrating tools are also at risk, along with people who frequently reach overhead. Taking adequate breaks can be helpful.
Tendinitis is also more common in older adults as the tendons become less flexible and more prone to injury. Tendon flexibility and strength can also be affected by hormonal changes (such as during pregnancy) and nutrition.
Tendinitis can be prevented. Follow the following tips to reduce to your risk.
- Stop any activity or job that causes you pain
- Take frequent breaks during strenuous jobs
- Make sure your form is correct in all sports and that your equipment is the right size for you
- Stay consistent with physical activity vs. just exercising on weekends
- Increase intensity of exercise slowly
- Warm up and stretch before exercise or sports
HOW IS TENDINITIS DIAGNOSED?
If you think you may be suffering from tendinitis, it’s important to seek treatment. Ignoring the symptoms can worsen the condition or even cause tendon rupture. Tendon rupture is more serious than tendinitis and can’t be resolved as easily — it often requires surgery.
When you see a doctor, they’ll discuss your medical history with you and evaluate your risk factors. Your doctor may ask:
- What sports, hobbies or recreational activities do you participate in?
- Have you been trained with correct form and technique for your sport/hobby?
- What do you do for work?
- What worsens the pain? What helps it?
- When did the pain begin and where do you feel it?
- Have you tried to treat the pain at home? If so, how?
They will perform a physical exam to look for swelling, inflammation and tenderness. They’ll assess your joint function and determine the best course of treatment. If needed, an x-ray or MRI may be ordered so that your doctor can rule out the possibility of other conditions and confirm your diagnosis.
WHAT TREATMENTS ARE AVAILABLE?
Tendinitis often goes away with simple modifications to activity. Your doctor may simply recommend a break from your sport or the activity causing the tendinitis. Rest and splints are effective treatment options, allowing the area to rest and alleviating the pain.
Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers are also an effective way to manage the pain — acetaminophen, aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen are all good options. Some can also help with inflammation. Your doctor may also suggest a corticosteroid injection, which is injected into the affected area to reduce inflammation.
The application of a hot or cold compress can also be helpful. A cold compress (ice pack) is best as soon as you notice the pain and irritation. Hot compresses are most helpful for persistent pain that you’ve been experiencing for a few days.
Physical therapy is also a great option to help relieve pressure and inflammation on the tendons and in the joint. They can also create exercises to strengthen the joint and supporting muscles.
Surgery is very rare for tendinitis. Usually, surgery is only needed if there is a tendon rupture or if the tendon has torn away from your bone.
HOW CAN MOA HELP?
Mountainstate Orthopedic Associates is one of the region’s leading orthopedic practices. We take pride in the education and experience of our doctors. Tendinitis is a common injury and our doctors are skilled in developing effective treatment plans to eliminate the pain.
From your initial appointment to the conclusion of your treatment, we strive to keep you informed and active in the decision making process. Your doctor will always provide you with options and guide you through them. It’s always our policy to be conservative with our course of treatment, only recommending surgery if it is truly needed.
If you suspect you have tendinitis, get in touch — we’ll schedule an appointment and create a plan to help you improve your pain and get back to the activities you love.