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Tendinitis – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment Options

02nd December 2016
Tendinitis causes symptoms and treatment options

The flexible bands of tissues that connect the muscles to bones and assist in the movement of your bones are called tendons. When these tissues get inflamed and become swollen, the condition is called tendinitis.

Tendinitis is diagnosed using physical examination and imaging tests, as well as the patient’s medical history. If you accuse symptoms like dull ache after moving the affected joint or limb, mild swelling and tenderness of the affected area, then you may be suffering from tendinitis.

This condition usually occurs in people who do repetitive movements at work as well as in sports players. Those whose jobs involve awkward positions, that stretch the tendons or force the muscles and bones to move in unnatural ways, as well as people whose jobs involve a lot of repetitive motions, frequent overhead reaching and exposure to workplace vibration, are more likely to suffer from tendinitis.

The inflammation of the tendons is a common issue in professional athletes who practice sports like running, tennis, baseball, basketball and swimming, and can occur in those who often play golf and bowling as well. In most cases, the inflammation is caused by the wear and tear of the tendon or by repeated injuries of the wrist or ankle.

In sports players, tendinitis affects most often the tendons around knees, wrists, elbows, shoulders and heels, and the condition is often referred to as “tennis elbow”, “swimmer’s shoulder”, “golfer’s elbow” and so on, depending on the area of inflammation.

Regular daily activities like gardening, or house cleaning, carpentry, raking, shoveling and painting can cause the tendons to become inflamed, and in some cases, the stress caused to the tendons by other conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, gout or psoriatic arthritis can also favor the inflammation of the tissues.

In arthritis sufferers, abnormally placed bones or joints can put too much stress on the tendons, irritating them and causing inflammation. People who have poor posture and walking habits and those with metabolic conditions such as diabetes are more prone to tendinitis. Infections from pet bites can favor this inflammatory condition as well, but this is a less common cause.

Treating the inflammation of tendons

Although tendinitis can affect people of all ages, it’s more common in adults aged 40 years and older, as tendons become less elastic and easier to tear with age. Tendinitis manifests through soreness and pain around the joint, so the first goal in treating this condition is to reduce the swelling and pain.

This means that you should first stop the movement or activity that causes pain, or if you know that your work involves repetitive movements, you should try to use limited force and limited repetitions, to prevent the overuse of the tendons.

Sometimes the tenderness and pain occur suddenly, and other times the symptoms increase progressively, so it’s useful to try to minimize the damage caused to the tendons by resting the affected areas and using home remedies.

Elevating the painful area, wrapping it, applying ice compresses or taking over-the-counter medications to reduce the discomfort is recommended. Rest helps in decreasing the swelling and pain, and allows the tissue to heal. Ice also helps in decreasing the swelling and muscle spasms, and if tendinitis affects the knee, raising the affected leg above the heart level can help in reducing the swelling and inflammation.

Applying topical creams with anti-inflammatory effects and taking corticosteroids can also be useful, but the corticosteroids should only be used if the doctor suggests it, as they’re not recommended for chronic tendinitis, where the inflammation lasts for over three months.

For chronic inflammation, one may be advised to undergo a specific physiotherapy program, meant to stretch and strengthen the affected muscles and tendons. If none of these treatments helps, surgery may be necessary, but it’s usually recommended only in severe cases, where the tendon irritation persists for several months, or if the tendon has torn away from the bone and needs to be repaired.

Not applying any treatment can increase the risk of tendon rupture, so if you notice the typical symptoms and suspect that you suffer from tendinitis, you should see a doctor as soon as possible to minimize the risk of complications.

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