What causes tendonitis?
Tendonitis most often is 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:
- Throwing and pitching
Incorrect posture at work or home, or poor stretching or conditioning before exercise or playing sports, 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 medication 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 of age. As tendons age, they tolerate less stress, are less elastic, and tear more easily.
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:
- The base of the thumb
- Achilles tendon (connects the calf muscles to the heel bone)
What are the symptoms of tendonitis?
- 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 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?
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 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, bands).
- 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 tendonitis, depending on the severity of your injury.
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. www.niams.nih.gov
- Arthritis Foundation. Disease Center: Tendinitis www.arthritis.org
- American College of Rheumatology. Practice Management: Tendonitis. www.rheumatology.org
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