Tendonitis is an inflammation of one of the tendons, the soft flexible cords of tissue that connect muscle to bone. Such inflammations can occur as a result of overuse or traumatic injury. Tendonitis can occur anywhere in the body, but most often occurs in joints such as the shoulder, knee, wrist, ankle and elbow.
Causes of Tendonitis
Although tendonitis may occur because of a sudden injury, it is much more frequently the result of repetitive stress. Commonly, the condition occurs when an individual makes repetitive motions almost daily because of occupational or athletic pursuits. Tendonitis more often occurs as individuals age and their tendons become less flexible.
People whose employment involves frequent overhead reaching, vibration, repetitive motions or forceful or awkward positions are also at greater risk. Involvement in certain sports also makes individuals more likely to suffer tendonitis. Participants in baseball, basketball, golf, bowling, swimming, tennis an running are particularly vulnerable. Various forms of tendonitis are sometimes known colloquially by the sports that commonly result in the injuries, such as tennis elbow or pitcher’s shoulder.
Taking prescribed antibiotics in the fluoroquinolone family, such as Cipro and Levaquin, also presents a serious risk of tendon injury for which the FDA now requires a “black box” warning.
Symptoms of Tendonitis
Symptoms of tendonitis include aching pain, tenderness to the touch, and sometimes mild swelling of the area. These symptoms are typically exacerbated by movement.
Diagnosis of Tendonitis
The broad term for these tendon conditions, which include chronic tendinosis as well as tendonitis, is tendinopathy. Particular tendon disorders are diagnosed through physical examination, X-rays and other imaging tests. Since untreated tendonitis can lead to tendinosis, a chronic and degenerative condition, tendonitis that lasts for more than a few days, should be diagnosed and treated promptly.
Treatment of Tendonitis
If tendonitis is severe and leads to the rupture of a tendon, surgical repair may be required. In most cases, however, tendonitis can be successfully treated with rest, medications to reduce pain and inflammation, and physical therapy.
Physical therapists, in addition to helping patients strengthen their muscles and stretch to increase flexibility, are often helpful in guiding patients to more efficient movement patterns so they can avoid stressing joints and tendons in the future. Exercises to assist contraction while simultaneously stretching the muscle (eccentric stretches) have been demonstrated to be especially effective in treating muscle-tendon inflammation.