What causes tendinitis?

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

Who gets tendinitis?

Anyone can get tendinitis. However, it's more common in those who do repetitive activities. Some of these activities include:

  • Gardening/landscaping
  • Carpentry
  • Shoveling
  • Painting
  • Scrubbing
  • Tennis, golf, skiing, baseball (throwing and pitching)

Other risk factors for tendinitis include:

  • Poor posture at work or home
  • Presence of certain diseases: rheumatoid arthritis, gout/pseudogout, blood or kidney diseases. These diseases can weaken muscles.
  • Adults 40 years of age and older. As tendons age, they tolerate less stress, are less elastic, and tear more easily.
  • Medications (rare occurrence): fluoroquinolone antibiotics (such as ciprofloxacin [Cipro®] and norfloxacin [Noroxin®]) and statins (drugs that lower cholesterol). These medicines can cause tendons to tear.

Where does tendinitis occur?

Tendinitis 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 (connects the calf muscles to the heel bone)

What are the symptoms of tendinitis?

  • Pain at the site of the tendon and surrounding area. Pain may be a gradual buildup 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 tendinitis?

To avoid getting tendinitis, follow these tips:

  • Avoid staying in the same position. Take breaks every 30 minutes.
  • Learn proper posture positions for all activities.
  • Position your body directly in front of the object you want to pick up. Reach for the object stretching your arm and hand directly forward toward the object. Never grab objects with your arm in a sideways position. If reaching for an object overhead, center your body and reach up and grab the item with both hands.
  • Use a firm, but not a tightly squeezed, grip when working with or picking up objects.
  • Don't use one hand to carry heavy objects. Don't hold the heavy object in one hand at the side of your body.
  • Avoid sitting with your leg folded under.
  • Stop any activity if you feel pain.

Before exercising or starting a sports activity:

  • Stretch and warm up before starting the activity
  • Wear properly sized and fitted clothes, shoes, and equipment.
  • Start slow. Gradually increase your activity level.

How is tendinitis treated?

First-line treatment includes:

If the condition does not improve in a week, see your doctor. 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.
  • Physical therapy. This can be very beneficial, especially for a “frozen shoulder.” Physical therapy includes range of motion exercises and splinting (thumb, forearm, hands).
  • Surgery. This is rarely needed and only for severe problems that do not respond to other treatments.

How long will recovery take?

It may take weeks to months to recover from tendinitis, depending on the severity of your injury.

When to call the doctor

You should see your doctor if you experience any of the following:

  • Fever (over 100 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • 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.


  • National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Bursitis and Tendinitis: Questions and Answers about Bursitis and Tendinitis Accessed 3/27/2015.
  • Arthritis Foundation. Disease Center: Tendinitis Accessed 3/27/2015.
  • American College of Rheumatology. Tendinitis and Bursitis Accessed 3/27/2015.
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    This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 2/25/2015…#10919