Tendinitis is a disease, in which a tendon gets irritated due to frequently and prolonged overload. So it’s not a real infection, but has to do with overload and repetitive movements. The condition causes pain and stiffness and occurs mainly in the elbow (tennis elbow, golfer’s elbow), shoulder or knee.
Tendinitis can have various causes. A person can have tendinitis due to injury or excessive irritation of the tendon or muscle. For example, when a particular movement is repeated all the time or a muscle is loaded too much by a sports fanatic. Tendinitis is often part of repetitive strain injury (RSI). Athletes and musicians are most at risk of having tendinitis. Furthermore, physical factors such as a leg length discrepancy or a foot defect can cause tendinitis. An underlying rheumatic condition may also play a role. Especially in people over forty years, unstable joints or osteoporosis may affect the development of tendinitis.
Tendinitis can be recognized by the following signs and symptoms:
- Pain and slight swelling.
- Hot skin above the tendon.
- Stiffness and limited motility at the site of inflammation.
- Sometimes, a soft cracking or crackling sound can be heard when moving the tendon.
Tendinitis is highly similar to bursitis. Both have to do with an injury or overload of the muscle. In both cases, the tendon swells and gets inflamed. The difference between tendinitis and bursitis is the kind of pain: in bursitis, the pain is rather dull while the pain of tendinitis is very sharp. The inflammations often occur simultaneously.
The diagnosis of tendinitis is usually made on the basis of the symptoms and what the person tells about the overuse or overload of the painful muscle group. If it’s suspected that the tendinitis is caused by osteoporosis, a bone scan or MRI can be carried out. Additionally, also other examination methods can be used, such as blood tests.
A doctor may decide to give an anti-inflammatory injection into the painful area. This treatment can be a bit painful and sometimes needs to be repeated, but usually the patient sees a significant improvement soon. The patient can also consult a remedial therapist, in order to prevent further inflammation or joint problems. Sometimes, tendinitis should be treated surgically and the patient ends up at an (orthopedic) surgeon.
Tendinitis usually passes on its own. Yet it is always wise to consider what caused the overload and to do something about it. It’s also important to keep moving, otherwise it may be months or even years before the symptoms are completely gone. Sometimes, the symptoms become chronic.
- It’s important to cool the sore muscle or muscle group and give it a few days of rest. When it comes to the arm, a sling might be used. A firm bandage, a painkiller or massage can ensure that the patient has less pain. After a few days, start moving the joint carefully again to prevent stiffening.
- Avoid overload. Repeatedly and too rapidly putting strong pressure on certain body parts can lead to tendinitis. Therefore, avoid too heavy load and increase the effort gradually.
- Use a soothing gel. There are lots of gels and creams on the market to deal with inflammation of the tendons and avoid the pain caused by it. These can bring a significant reduction in symptoms.
- Do relaxing exercises. Body parts that are constantly used, need rest now and then. Let the wrist and elbow regularly fully rest when you are at work in the office and shake them loose. In sports, a good prior warming-up is also important.
- Use a painkiller. Painkillers may be useful to help the patient further for the time being and ease the pain. Paracetamol or ibuprofen are two of the possible pain-relieving drugs that a patient can take.