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Tendonitis

What is tendonitis?

Tendonitis is a painful inflammation or irritation of a tendon, strong bands of tissue attaching muscles to bones.

Tendonitis may be caused by an injury, or may develop over time through overuse.

What causes tendonitis?

Tendonitis is most often caused by repetitive, minor impact on the affected area, or from a sudden more serious injury.

There are many activities that can cause tendonitis including:

  • Gardening
  • Raking
  • Carpentry
  • Shovelling
  • Painting
  • Scrubbing
  • Tennis
  • Golf
  • Skiing
  • Throwing and pitching

Incorrect posture at work or home or poor stretching or conditioning before exercise or playing sport also increases a person's risk. Other risk factors for tendonitis include:

  • An abnormal or poorly placed bone or joint (such as length differences in your legs or arthritis in a joint) that stresses soft-tissue structures
  • Stresses from other conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, gout, psoriatic arthritis, thyroid disorders or unusual medical reactions.

Occasionally an infection can cause tendonitis.

Who gets tendonitis?

Anyone can get tendonitis, but it is more common in adults, especially those over 40 years old. As tendons age they tolerate less stress, are less elastic and are easier to tear. People with diabetes are more likely to develop tendonitis.

Where does tendonitis occur?

Tendonitis can occur in almost any area of the body where a tendon connects a bone to a muscle. The most common places are:

  • Base of the thumb
  • Elbow
  • Shoulder
  • Hip
  • Knee
  • Achilles tendon

What are the symptoms of tendonitis?

The symptoms of tendonitis include:

  • Pain at the site of the tendon and surrounding area. Pain may be a gradual build-up or sudden and severe, especially if calcium deposits are present.
  • Loss of motion in the shoulder, called "adhesive capsulitis" or frozen shoulder.

How can I avoid tendonitis?

When performing activities:

  • Take it slow at first. Gradually build up your activity level.
  • Use limited force and limited repetitions.
  • Stop if unusual pain occurs. Do something else. Try again later, and if pain recurs stop that activity for the day.

How is tendonitis treated?

Initial treatment includes:

  • Avoiding activities that aggravate the problem
  • Resting the injured area
  • Icing the area the day of the injury
  • Taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medicines

If the condition does not improve in a week, seek medical advice. You may need more advanced treatments including:

  • Corticosteroid injections. Corticosteroids (often called "steroids") are often used because they work quickly to decrease the inflammation and pain.
  • Physiotherapy. This can be very beneficial, especially for a "frozen shoulder". Physiotherapy includes range of motion exercises and splinting (thumb, forearm, bands).
  • Surgery. This is only rarely needed for severe problems not responding to other treatments.

How long will recovery take?

Tendonitis may take weeks to months to recover, depending on the severity of your injury.

Warning

You should seek medical advice promptly if you experience any of the following:

  • Fever (over 38C or 100F)
  • Swelling, redness and warmth
  • General illness or multiple sites of pain
  • Inability to move the affected area

These could be signs of another problem that needs more immediate attention.

Next Article:

WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on March 04, 2014

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