Tendons have the function of joining the muscles to the bones and resemble thick cords. In cases, where they get inflamed or irritated, the condition is referred to as tendinitis. Tendinitis is a condition that leads to acute pain and tenderness, and it makes it difficult to move the affected joint.
Any tendon can get inflamed, however, it is much more likely for it to develop in the knee, shoulder, elbow, heel, or the wrist. Depending on its location, tendinitis is also referred to as:
- jumper‘s knee
- pitcher‘s shoulder
- swimmer‘s shoulder
- golfer‘s elbow
- tennis elbow
What Are the Causes of Tendonitis?
Experts agree that the most common cause of this condition is any kind of repetitive action. Tendons have the function of helping us make certain movements, so if we do a certain movement over and over again, the tendon can get inflamed.
Such motions are typically done due to work or while playing certain sports. The possibility of developing tendonitis is even higher when such movements aren‘t performed correctly.
Other causes of tendonitis include:
- taking certain kinds of antibiotics
- suffering from certain conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes
Athletes, who participate in certain kinds of sports, such as bowling, basketball, golf, and tennis are also at a higher risk of tendinitis. When your job requires physical exertion, overhead lifting or repetitive motions and tasks, it is recommended to be very careful, as all these activities can lead to an inflammation of the tendons.
What Are the Symptoms of Tendonitis?
Tendinitis is a condition that typically leads to a dull ache, which occurs around the affected joint. When moving to the injured area, the pain tends to increase. The affected area also gets tender and hurts, when someone touches it.
Some patients experience swelling or tightness, which makes it difficult to move the affected area. When you develop symptoms of tendinitis, it is recommended to rest the affected area and put ice on it. If the symptoms don‘t improve after a couple of days, you must visit a doctor.
How Do Doctors Diagnose Tendonitis?
When you visit your doctor, you will first be asked about your medical history. Your doctor will also do a physical exam of the area that is affected and check the range of motion, as well as evaluate tenderness. You should tell your doctor about:
- any recent or past injuries to the area that hurts
- your past and present physical activities and sports
- any medical conditions that might have been diagnosed previously
- prescription drugs, as well as over-the-counter medications or herbal supplements, that you might be taking.
If the doctor cannot diagnose your condition during a physical exam, you might need to get additional tests, such as X-Rays or MRI scans.
How Is Tendonitis Treated?
Treatment for tendonitis helps to reduce the inflammation in the tendon, as well as to provide pain relief. Some of the treatment options include:
- There are some home remedies, that are known to be helpful, such as applying heat or ice to the affected area and resting and elevating the tendon.
- Your doctor might also recommend that you take over-the-counter medications, such as Tylenol, or anti-inflammatory drugs, such as naproxen, ibuprofen, or aspirin.
- Sometimes it is recommended that you use a compression bandage and wrap the area until the swelling goes away.
- Some stretches and exercises can help to improve mobility in the area and to build strength.
- When the condition is severe, you might need to wear supports, such as braces, a cane, or splints.
- Corticosteroid injections are used when other treatment options don‘t work, or you might need to visit a physical therapist.
- When none of the non-invasive options work, your doctor might recommend surgery to remove inflammatory tissue.
Corticosteroid injections can help to reduce the inflammation and pain, however using them repeatedly can weaken the tendon, even more, increasing the possibility of future injuries.
In cases, where the tendon is treated early, the condition resolves quickly. When left untreated or unnoticed, it can recur and turn into a chronic, or a long-term problem. In cases where certain repetitive movements cause tendinitis, you must change such behaviors and reduce the risk of the condition occurring again after it heals.
When the tendon inflammation isn‘t treated, there is a risk that you further damage the tendon and cause a tendon rupture. In cases, where the tendon ruptures, surgery is often necessary.
What Does a Tendonitis Surgery Look Like?
During a tendon repair surgery, the torn or damaged tendon is treated. It is an option for those who have suffered tendon damage, which is very painful or makes it very difficult for them to move the affected joint.
The main reason for a tendon repair surgery is to restore normal movement of the joint. During a tendon repair, the surgeon will make one or several small cuts in the skin over the tendon, that is damaged to then sew the torn ends of the damaged tendon together.
The surgeon will also check the surrounding tissue to make sure that there aren‘t any other injuries present, such as injuries of the nerves or the blood vessels. Afterward, the incision will be closed, the area covered with sterile bandages, and the surgeon will either splint the joint or immobilize it so that it allows the tendon to heal.
When there isn‘t enough of a healthy tendon to reconnect, a tendon graft might be used, where a piece of tendon from another part of the body is taken and transferred. During a tendon repair surgery, anesthesia is used, to prevent the patient from experiencing pain during the surgery. The types of anesthesia that might be used include general anesthesia, local or regional anesthesia.
Can Tendon Repair Surgery Lead to Complications?
Risks that are associated with tendon repair surgery include:
- Re-tearing of the tendon, some loss of joint use, scar tissue, which might lead to the joint no longer being able to move smoothly or stiffness of the joint.
- Some risks are associated with anesthesia, such as difficulty breathing, itching, or a rash.
- There is also a risk from the surgery, which includes infection and bleeding.
In most cases, tendon repairs are done on an outpatient basis, which means that you can go home right after the surgery. Even if you need to stay in the hospital, it is typically for only a short period. Healing can last up to 12 weeks and the injured tendon might need to be supported with a splint or a cast, as this helps to take the tension off of the repaired tendon.
After surgery, most patients will also need physical or occupational therapy. This helps to return to daily activities gradually and safely. After the surgery, some patients need treatment to minimize scar tissue, as too much scar tissue can make it more difficult for the tendon to heal and move.
Tendon repair surgery is successful in almost all cases when it is done alongside physical or occupational therapy. A general rule says that the sooner the tendon repair surgery is done after the tendon was injured, the easier the surgery and recovery.
There are cases, where long-term complications might develop and stiffness can be long-lasting. There are some tendon injuries, which are very difficult to repair, so make sure that you speak to your doctor before the surgery about your outlook.
Can You Prevent Tendonitis?
There are some simple steps, which help you lower the chances of developing a tendon inflammation.
- It is important, that you stretch and warm-up before any exercise.
- You should also remain physically fit and do your best to build muscle tone.
- You should avoid repetitive motions or overuse and cross-train if you are an athlete.
- When you work at a desk or do other tasks, make sure to have a proper posture at all times.
- It also isn‘t good to remain in one position for too long, so you should make sure that you move around now and then.
- If you work or do certain athletic activities, you should make sure to use proper equipment.
When you experience pain during a certain activity, you must stop that activity, take a break, and apply ice on the area that hurts.
How Long Does It Take to Recover From Tendonitis?
It might take you weeks and up to months for the condition to go away, depending on the individual case and the severity of the injury. It is important, that you watch for infection signs and seek immediate medical attention if you suffer from fever, if you notice swelling, warmth, and redness or if you are unable to move the affected area. These might be indicators of another, more severe problem and need to be evaluated by a medical professional.