Have Questions About Tendonitis? You're Not Alone

Tendons are strands of connective tissue that attach muscles to bones. They are strong to allow the body to perform difficult tasks, but elastic to help with stretching. Muscles contract with movement and tendons pull bones in the right direction. Tendons provide strength and stability to movements. When a tendon becomes inflamed or irritated, the condition is called Tendonitis. The most common areas for tendonitis are the ankle, elbow, foot, knee, wrist, shoulder, and thumb. However, it can take place anywhere a tendon is present and is generally noticed after chronic strain, misuse or severe injury. Tendonitis can range in severity from slight weakness to a torn tendon, making it difficult to diagnose. Symptoms can vary between minor stiffness to severe swelling and pain. An injury related to this condition makes it important to know the proper treatments and long-term effects. Below are some of the most common questions regarding the condition.

1 - What are the symptoms of Tendonitis?

The first noticeable symptom of Tendonitis is usually pain and tenderness outside the affected joint. Movement often makes the pain worse. It's important to remember that this type of injury isn't something that responds to exercise. Sometimes, the tendon may feel like it's crackling or grinding with movement. Swelling, heat, and redness may follow. A lump or bulge can develop along the tendon which feels like a sore bump under the skin. If rupture occurs, a gap may be felt along the line of the tendon. A common misconception is that when a finger from bent to fully extended when opening the hand, this is tendonitis. In fact, this is not a symptom of tendonitis. It's an issue called "Trigger Finger" which is most common with people who have other conditions like arthritis, gout or diabetes. 

2 - What causes Tendonitis?

Tendonitis is usually caused by repeated movement. Movements in jobs or hobbies can increase risks. Other regular activities that might be a factor include gardening, housework, painting, carpentry, and shoveling. The repeated movements in sports like running, tennis, golf, basketball, baseball, swimming, and bowling can make athletes vulnerable to tendonitis.

Sometimes, an acute injury can cause the problem. Incorrect posture or poor preparation for exercise are factors that increase the risk for injury. As with the muscles, it's important to take care of tendons and warm up to avoid sudden tears.

3 - Who is at risk for Tendonitis?

Although anyone can suffer from tendonitis, being over 40 creates greater risk. Tendons lose elasticity with age, which means they handle less stress and are more likely to tear.

An adult who is new (or returning) to a sport or certain activity, might be at a higher risk as well. Overuse of tendons can lead to pain. When beginning a new activity, it's important not to start big. Tendons need to build up strength and resilience to get used to each new workout.

4 - How is it diagnosed?

Usually, a physical exam is all that's needed for diagnosis. If a doctor decides it's important to rule out other conditions, imaging services may be required. X-rays can rule out a bone fracture or Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) might be necessary to rule out other tissue related conditions.

When a patient suffers chronic tendonitis, the doctor might want to consider other suggestions. Ultrasound or MRI scans can help doctors find tendon thickening, dislocations, or tears. These scans also help to discover other chronic conditions.

5 - What is the treatment for Tendonitis?

Often, tendonitis can be treated with ice, over-the-counter pain medications, and rest of the affected area. If those techniques aren't working, a doctor might prescribe medication. Doctors often recommend pain relievers to relieve discomfort. Physical therapy is often considered a good option for those who suffer chronic tendon conditions. If a treatment plan doesn't yield results, a doctor might recommend surgery.

6 - Is Tendonitis preventable?

While Tendonitis isn't completely preventable, there are a number of actions to reduce the risk. When beginning a new activity, take it slow. Putting new stress on a tendon is the easiest way to create an injury. Before any type of exercise, it's important to stretch. A tight muscle will put more strain on the tendon. Don't overdo it. Repeated movements that continue for a long period of time can be dangerous. Never ignore pain. While muscle fatigue is normal, pain is a warning that something is wrong. When pain occurs, take a rest or discontinue the activity.

7. How long does it take to heal?

There are many factors that can affect healing time. Usually, full recovery takes around three months. Pain or complete immobility isn't expected for the entire period. Healing time can be affected by age, the severity of the injury, and even the location. Tendons in elderly people are less elastic and slower to heal. A severe injury or a tendon rupture could require surgery. Some locations, like the hands, require more everyday use. The most important thing to speed healing time is to follow the treatment prescribed.

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