What is tendinitis?
Tendinitis (or tendonitis) is an inflammation or irritation of a tendon. Tendons are pieces of connective tissue between muscles and bones. Tendinitis can be either acute (short-term) or chronic (long-term) in nature.
Who gets tendinitis?
Anyone can get tendinitis. However, it's more common in those who do repetitive activities. Some of these activities include:
- Tennis, golf, skiing, baseball (throwing and pitching).
Other risk factors for tendinitis include:
- Poor posture at work or home.
- Presence of certain diseases that can weaken muscles. These diseases can include:
- Adults 40 years of age and older. As tendons age, they tolerate less stress, are less elastic and tear more easily.
- Medications (rare occurrence) that can cause tendons to tear. These medications can include:
- Fluoroquinolone antibiotics (such as ciprofloxacin [Cipro®] and norfloxacin [Noroxin®]).
- Statins (drugs that lower cholesterol).
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.
- Achilles tendon (connects the calf muscles to the heel bone).
Symptoms and Causes
What causes tendinitis?
Tendinitis most often is caused by repetitive, minor impact on the affected area, or from a sudden, more serious injury.
What are the symptoms of tendinitis?
One of the main symptoms of tendinitis is 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.
Management and Treatment
How is tendinitis treated?
First-line 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 about three weeks, 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: 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 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 by 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.
Outlook / Prognosis
How long will recovery from tendinitis take?
It may take weeks to months to recover from tendinitis, depending on the severity of your injury.
When should I call the doctor about tendinitis?
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.