Tendonitis, also spelled tendinitis, is an injury caused by inflammation and damage to tendons. In the body, tendons are tough flexible pieces of cartilage that attach muscles to bones. This means they are needed for everyday movement, but they also withstand a lot of stress.
Since tendons are present throughout the body, tendonitis can develop at nearly any location but is most common in the ankles, knees, shoulders, elbows, and wrists. This is because these are areas that perform repetitive and intricate movements while also supporting a lot of weight.
Tendonitis can be extremely frustrating to deal with, especially for athletes, people who work physical jobs, and otherwise active people. Fortunately, there is a wide range of effective treatment options that can help relieve tendonitis symptoms and promote the healing process.
To help you become a more informed patient and better understand this injury and the available treatment options for tendonitis, we’re happy to share the following information. Don’t hesitate to reach out to a member of our caring team if you have any questions or would like to learn more.
What triggers tendonitis?
Tendonitis is most commonly a repetitive motion injury, but it can also be caused by sudden trauma. People who work physical jobs that require repeated movements, such as plumbers or carpenters, frequently develop tendonitis. For athletes, tendonitis can be running-related, especially Achilles tendonitis in the ankle, or related to sports that require swinging a club or racquet, such as golf or tennis. Tennis elbow is one of the most common forms of tendonitis.
Will tendonitis heal on its own?
Less serious forms of tendonitis typically heal on their own with proper treatment and rest. Healing time can typically take anywhere from two to four weeks. Not taking treatment and rest seriously can cause tendonitis to become recurrent and chronic.
Does tendonitis ever go away?
Tendonitis should be a short-term injury, but it can become chronic if patients don’t take the time to rest and let the injury fully heal. Continuing to perform the movements and activities that caused the injury can make tendonitis worse. This in turn can lead to worsening pain, restricted movement, and even the potential for the tendon to tear or rupture.
What is the best treatment for tendonitis?
Work with your doctor or physical therapist to develop an effective treatment plan. The most commonly recommended treatments for tendonitis are rest, ice, compression, and elevation (also known as the RICE method). Anti-inflammatory drugs can also help relieve pain. However, treatments will also depend on the specific affected area.
Here is more information on five common treatment options that doctors and physical therapists recommend.
1. Rest is an essential form of tendonitis treatment
Since tendonitis is so often a repetitive motion injury, taking the time to rest and avoid the activity that causes it is an essential part of treatment. If tendonitis is job-related, patients should seek light duty or modified activities if at all possible. Athletes should avoid practicing or playing until cleared by a qualified medical professional.
As mentioned above, not taking the time to let tendonitis heal will only prolong the recovery process and lead to chronic problems down the road.
2. Is heat or cold better for tendonitis? When to use which
Hot and cold therapy is used for a wide range of injuries and patients can alternate the two forms in conjunction. A heat source, such as a heating pad, can relax soft tissue while improving circulation. Meanwhile, an ice pack can temporarily numb the affected area and reduce inflammation.
It’s important to not leave either an ice pack or a heat source on the affected area for too long. Most doctors or physical therapists recommend no longer than 10 to 20 minutes for each at a time, and typically around two to three times a day. You should always follow the advice of your treatment professional.
3. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs can help relieve pain
While medication does not help with the healing process and should never be used as a substitute for rest, anti-inflammatory drugs can help patients avoid unnecessary discomfort. For tendonitis, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and naproxen are the most common recommendations. Always take as directed and inform your doctor of any other medications you are taking to avoid harmful interactions.
4. The importance of working with a physical therapist for tendonitis recovery
Whether you are treating chronic tendonitis or trying to prevent reinjury of a first-time case, physical therapy can have a very positive impact. Physical therapists are trained medical professionals who are experts in the musculoskeletal system and biomechanical function. Your therapist can help you identify the postural and mechanical issues that contribute to tendonitis and take steps to correct them through therapeutic exercise, manual therapy, and other therapies.
By strengthening and stabilizing the affected area while increasing range of motion and flexibility, a physical therapist can help promote the healing process and decrease the risk of reinjury.
5. Steroid injections can relieve pain and inflammation
If tendonitis persists for longer than two to four weeks, pain management injections are another potential treatment option. By injecting a corticosteroid and numbing agent into the affected area, injections can relieve serious pain and inflammation over a period of weeks or months. In addition to reducing discomfort, it can also help patients undergo physical therapy in situations where it may have been too uncomfortable.
Is surgery ever necessary for tendonitis?
Surgery for tendonitis is usually not required, but it may become necessary in serious cases of tendon rupture or tearing, or if there is a buildup of calcium deposits over a long period of time. Most patients dealing with tendonitis are able to find relief by pursuing more basic options.
Learn more from the caring professionals at BEST Health System
If you are dealing with Achilles tendonitis, tennis elbow, shoulder tendonitis, or any other form of this injury, contact the BEST Health System team today to learn more about your options for relief. We are an expert team including interventional pain management physicians and orthopedic surgeons who can work with you to build a highly personalized treatment plan.
Tendonitis should be a temporary injury that doesn’t take over your life, we’ll help you get back to the healthy and active lifestyle you deserve.