Tendonitis (or tendinitis) refers to inflammation of a tendon — the thick, corded tissues that attach muscle to bone. Any tendon in the body can develop tendonitis, but it commonly affects mobile joints like the shoulder joint, elbow, wrist, knee, and heel.  


Many cases of tendonitis resolve with non-surgical treatment. But failing to properly rest and rehabilitate an inflamed tendon can lead to more serious conditions like chronic inflammation or a ruptured tendon. Keep reading to learn more about the causes, symptoms, and treatments for tendon inflammation. 

What Causes Tendonitis?

Tendonitis is an incredibly common overuse injury that develops in response to repetitive movements. Making the same motions for a sport, exercise, hobby, or your job places continual stress on the tendon, eventually leading to inflammation and irritation. A traumatic injury like a direct blow can also cause tendon inflammation and damage. 


Working a physically demanding job that requires repetitive motions, overhead reaching, or awkward positioning increases the risk of developing tendonitis. Playing sports like running, swimming, tennis, and baseball also increase the risk of tendonitis, especially if you have poor conditioning or technique. Aging — tendons become less flexible with age — and having a disease like rheumatoid arthritis are other common risk factors.   

Signs and Symptoms

While the location of symptoms differs depending on where tendonitis develops, common symptoms in most cases include:


  • A dull, achy pain around the affected joint
  • Pain that worsens with movement
  • Swelling and tightness
  • Redness, warmth, and tenderness
  • A grating or crackling sound with movement


In many cases, symptoms start slowly and worsen over time. Continuing to aggravate an inflamed tendon can lead to significant pain and stiffness, weakness, and difficulty moving the affected joint.  

Treatment Options

Most cases of tendonitis resolve within a few weeks with at-home measures and non-surgical treatments. If you have any of the signs and symptoms listed above, seek medical advice from your doctor to find an effective treatment regimen. Tendonitis is usually diagnosable by a physical exam alone. 


Common treatment methods include:


  • Rest. Rest is one of the most important treatment steps — and it’s also the one most likely to be ignored. If you’re active or play sports, you may be afraid that taking a few days off will affect your performance. You may think that you can run or play through the pain. But continuing to aggravate an inflamed tendon without allowing it to rest and heal can lead to a tear, rupture, or permanent tendon damage. Rest will help reduce inflammation and allow the healing process to begin. Follow your doctor’s medical advice for the length of time to rest from activities. 


  • Ice and heat. Apply ice packs a few times a day to reduce pain, swelling and inflammation around the injured tendon. You can also apply heat packs a few times a day to soothe tight, tense muscles. 


  • Medications. An over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication like ibuprofen or naproxen can reduce pain, swelling and inflammation. An over-the-counter pain reliever like acetaminophen can relieve pain but won’t reduce inflammation.


  • Corticosteroid injections. If your case is severe, your doctor may recommend a corticosteroid injection. Corticosteroids are powerful anti-inflammatories that reduce inflammation and pain around the injured tendon. An injection isn’t a permanent solution — the effects will wear off after a few weeks or months. But a period of pain relief will allow your body to begin healing while you work on strengthening the affected area. A single injection is usually all that’s recommended for acute tendonitis, because repeated injections can weaken the tendon over time. 


  • Physical therapy. Your doctor may recommend a physical therapist to work with you on strengthening the affected muscles and tendons, improving flexibility and range of motion, and improving form and technique. 


If tendonitis advances to a severe tear or rupture, you may need surgical repair

How Can You Prevent Tendonitis?

There are quite a few things you can do on your own to reduce your risk of developing tendonitis. 


  • Take multiple breaks during work, activities, sports that require repetitive motions
  • Perform dynamic stretching before and after exercising
  • Cross-train with high-impact and low-impact exercises to avoid repeated stress and loading on the same joints
  • Improve your form and technique for exercises, weight-lifting and sports
  • Perform strengthening exercises that build muscle tone
  • Use proper workstation ergonomics and take frequent breaks to stretch and walk around during the day 

Treat Your Tendonitis at BEST Surgery and Therapies

BEST is a single-stop healthcare solution for minimally invasive orthopedic and spine care. Our state-of-the-art campus contains all the treatments and services you’ll need, including a physical therapy center, pain management suite, spine and orthopedic clinic, urgent orthopedic care center, ambulatory surgery center (ASC), and diagnostic imaging center.  


We have a quick-reply scheduling service that allows rapid patient access to our modern healthcare facility in Cincinnati, OH. Please call us to speak with a dedicated Patient Experience Coordinator and schedule your first appointment.

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