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What Is Tendinitis?

Tendinitis is inflammation or irritation of a tendon — the thick fibrous cords that attach muscle to bone. The condition causes pain and tenderness outside a joint. While tendinitis can occur in any of your tendons, it's most common around your shoulders, elbows, wrists, knees and heels. Some common names for various tendinitis problems are: Tennis elbow, Golfer's elbow, Pitcher's shoulder, Swimmer's shoulder, Jumper's knee. Most cases of tendinitis can be successfully treated with rest, physical therapy and medications to reduce pain. If tendinitis is severe and leads to the rupture of a tendon, you may need surgery. Here is what you need to know.

Causes

The most common cause of tendinitis is repetitive action. Tendons help you make a certain movement over and over. You may develop tendinitis if you frequently make the same motion while playing sports or working. The risk increases if you perform the motion incorrectly.

Tendinitis can also result from:

  • injury
  • aging
  • certain diseases, such as diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis

Athletes who play certain sports, such as tennis, golf, bowling, or basketball, are at a higher risk of tendinitis.

Symptoms

  • pain which worsens on movement
  • a feeling that the tendon is crackling as it moves
  • swelling, heat, and redness
  • a lump may develop along the tendon

How is Tendinitis Diagnosed?

To diagnose Tendinitis, the treating physician will first take a history of the patient. Some of the questions that the physician will ask during history taking may be:

  • Any history of previous injuries to the affected area
  • Any sporting activities that individual may have been involved with
  • History of any conditions like diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis
  • Any medications that the individual may be taking.

Once the history taking is done, the physician will then do a thorough physical examination of the troubled area. The physician will look for areas of tenderness and swelling. The physician will also palpate the area to observe any increased pain with palpation. The physician will then try to move the affected joint to check for loss of range of motion of the joint. Once Tendinitis is suspected, the physician will order radiological studies in the form of x-rays, MRI or CT scans to ascertain the extent of damage to the tendons.

Treatment

The quicker your tendinitis is treated, the sooner you'll recover full strength and flexibility. Your doctor first may recommend that you apply ice packs to the painful area for 20-minute periods, three or four times a day. You also should ice the area immediately after any activity that aggravates your pain. To relieve pain and swelling, your doctor may suggest that you take ibuprofen, aspirin or another nonprescription anti-inflammatory medication, for several weeks. You also will need to rest the area for a few days to a few weeks to allow your body to repair itself. Depending on the location and severity of tendinitis, you may need temporary splinting, bracing or a sling. However, it is important to gently and regularly move the joint to avoid getting a stiff, or "frozen," joint. This is especially important for tendinitis involving the shoulder. Surgery is rarely needed to treat tendinitis. It is reserved for cases that do not respond to other types of treatment or when there is significant tendon damage that is unlikely to improve with any other treatment.

Most cases of tendinitis respond to self-care measures. Make sure to see your doctor if your signs and symptoms persist and interfere with your daily activities for more than a few days.