Pacific Rim Orthopedic Surgeons

Tendinitis (Tendonitis)

When connective tissues between the muscles and bones inflame, it's referred to as tendinitis or spelled as tendonitis. The condition is caused by repetitive activities and can develop in the knee, elbows, shoulders, hip, base of the thumb, or Achilles tendon. There are several treatments that help the tendons heal, from surgery to rest and behavior adjustments. To better educate patients who may be suffering from tendinitis, we have outlined the causes, symptoms, and treatments that will ease the condition and restore the affected tendon's health.

Tendinitis Overview

Tendinitis, or tendonitis, is an irritation of the tendon that causes it to swell and become inflamed. The condition is considered an overuse injury as it develops from repetitive strain of the affected tendon. Pain and soreness are felt around the joint nearest to where the tendon attaches to the bone and can be either acute ( short-term) or chronic (long-term). 

There are several types of tendinitis, usually named for sports and the area of the body where it often develops, for example:

  • Runner’s/Jumper’s knee
  • Swimmer’s shoulder
  • Golfer’s elbow
  • Pitcher’s shoulder
  • Tennis elbow

Tendonitis is fairly common among athletes and in specific occupations and hobbies where repetitive motions are frequent.

Women suffering from numbness on wrist, Numbing pain in hand

Symptoms of Tendonitis

Tendinitis can develop in almost any area of the body where a tendon connects bone to muscle, most commonly:

  • The shoulder
  • The hip
  • The base of the thumb
  • The elbow, specifically along the outer part of the forearm
  • The knee, below the kneecap
  • The Achilles tendon

No matter the area of the body, tendinitis symptoms typically include:

  • Stiff joints and/or difficulty moving them
  • Hearing and feeling a popping or cracking sensation when moving
  • Swelling, often with skin discoloration such as red to purple or darker than natural skin tone
  • Pain at the tendon and surrounding area, pain worsening during movement.

Causes and Risks for Tendinitis

As an overuse injury, tendinitis causes are typically from overuse or repetitive movements, but can also develop from the strain in a sudden movement or an injury. Tendinitis can also develop as a side effect of medication, such as statins or medicines that lower cholesterol or fluoroquinolone antibiotics. Also, underlying medical conditions can cause tendonitis:

  • An infection
  • Gout
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Diabetes

While anyone can develop tendinitis, there are risk factors that contribute to it, such as specific activities and professions:

  • Woodworking
  • Painting
  • Scrubbing
  • Sports like golf, baseball, or tennis
  • Gardening and landscaping
  • Poor posture
  • Conditions that weaken muscles
  • Age, after forty the tendons aren’t able to tolerate as much stress and become less elastic.

Tendinitis Treatment

To diagnose tendonitis, a doctor will perform a physical exam and likely order imaging tests to see the tendons, such as an X-ray or MRI. Once tendinitis is confirmed, there are two primary steps to treat it, beginning with a conservative approach:

  • Avoiding activities that cause or inflame the symptoms
  • Resting the injured area
  • Icing the area the day the injury occurred
  • Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medicines

If these treatments don’t provide relief and abate the tendonitis in three weeks or so, the healthcare provider will recommend additional treatments: 

  • Corticosteroid injections: to decrease the inflammation and pain in the affected tendon
  • Physical therapy: performing a range of motion exercises and splinting to reduce inflammation, improve soft tissue mobility, and restore movement, function, and strength. Another part of physical therapy will be to screen other joints for mobility deficiencies that could turn into tendonitis.
  • Surgery: tendinitis rarely requires surgery and is reserved for severe cases when other treatments fail to address it. 

As mentioned earlier, tendonitis tends to take around three weeks to heal after treatment but can take up to months if a severe case. To avoid developing tendonitis, there are a few things a person can do:

  • Warm up and stretch before starting an activity
  • Stop the activity if pain is felt
  • Avoid sitting with a leg folded under the buttocks
  • Avoid staying in the same position for more than thirty minutes at a time
  • Learn proper posture and body positions for all activities
  • Use a firm, but not tight squeeze, when gripping objects
  • Use two hands to carry heavy objects

Make an Appointment with our Orthopedic Surgeons

We at Proliance Pacific Rim Orthopedic Surgeons strive to help our patients achieve a return to normal activity through compassionate and exceptional care using evidence-based medicine in a patient-friendly environment. We are committed to bringing you a high standard of care that is patient-focused, with the goal of improving your quality of life.