Tendonitis Diagnosis, Treatment, and Recovery
Tendons are strong, fibrous pieces of connective tissue that link your muscles to your bones. They’re even responsible for attaching muscle to various structures on the body, such as the eyeball. Simply put, tendons are what allow you to move your limbs and other parts of your body. A condition seen fairly common among the tendons in the human body is tendonitis.
Tendonitis is defined as the inflammation of tendons, most commonly from overuse. However, it is important to note that tendonitis can also occur among those who suffer from an infection or rheumatic disease. Today we will go into further detail regarding the causes, signs, and symptoms of tendonitis, followed by the treatment and recovery methods used regularly at JIS Orthopedics.
Causes, Signs, and Symptoms of Tendonitis
In most cases, tendonitis is caused by overuse or repetitive activity on the affected area, or from a more severe injury. Listed below are some of the more common activities that we find to be linked to the condition.
- Throwing Sports
Additionally, there are several risk factors for tendonitis. Incorrect posture at work or home, poor conditioning, or playing sports will increase an individual’s chance of developing tendonitis. A few more risk factors include:
- Abnormal Bone/Joint Structure. Abnormalities such as length differences in your legs or arthritis may cause stress on soft tissue structures.
- “Weekend Warriors.” Tendonitis is commonly seen in people who often overuse, or do too much too soon. People who only play and exercise hard on the weekends are more likely to develop the condition.
- Infections. Various infections, especially dog and cat bites on the hand or finger can lead to tendonitis.
The signs and symptoms of tendonitis tend to take place at the site of the tendon and its’ surrounding area. In some cases, pain is mild at the beginning, then gradually builds up. Other times, the pain can be sudden and severe, especially if calcium deposits are present.
Tendonitis is often diagnosed by a physical exam. However, if you have symptoms of overuse tendinopathy, your doctor may order ultrasound or MRI scans to help determine tendon thickening and look for any dislocations or tears (usually unnecessary for newly diagnosed cases). Additionally, your doctor may evaluate whether you have similar problems, such as bursitis.
While tendonitis can occur in any of your tendons, it is most commonly seen around your shoulders, elbows, wrists, and heels. Listed below are some of the common condition names for the various tendonitis problems seen most frequently:
- Swimmers Shoulder (Shoulder Impingement). Inflammation of a tendon in the rotator cuff, at the top of the shoulder.
- Tennis Elbow. Affects the outer side (lateral) of the elbow.
- Golfer’s Elbow. Affects the inner side (medial) of the elbow.
- De Quervain’s Syndrome. Affects the back of the wrist.
- Jumper’s Knee. Affects the front of the knee.
- Achilles Tendonitis. Affects the back of the ankle and heel.
In the majority of cases, a surgery is not needed to treat tendonitis. The non-surgical treatment process revolves around restoring movement to the joint without pain, while maintaining strength in the surrounding muscles, giving the tissues time to heal.
Quite often, your doctor will recommend the RICE method as the first step of your treatment: Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. The sooner you follow this method, the quicker your body will recover back to full strength and flexibility.
It is important to note that tendonitis can often be a recurring condition. If the RICE method doesn’t seem to be working for you, or if you happen to be experiencing recurring symptoms, there are a few additional recommended methods for treatment:
- Immobilization with a splint, sling, or crutches
- Physical therapy
- Application of heat (skin balms, hot packs, soaking)
- Corticosteroid injections
It is also recommended that during treatment, you avoid any activities or movements that cause stress to the injured tendon. To reduce pain, we recommend taking over-the-counter NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), such as ibuprofen (Advil) and naproxen (Aleve).
In the most severe cases, a surgery may be needed to realign the tendons in the affected area and remove any bone spurs and areas of calcium buildup that may be present. Most often, individuals with chronic tendonitis undergo an open and FAST (focused aspiration of scar tissue) surgery, which is typically ultrasound-guided and minimally invasive.
With proper rest and treatment, you should be back to your normal, healthy lifestyle within 6-8 weeks. In more severe cases, recovery can take up to 6-9 months. After you have healed, it is important to make sure that you are taking the proper steps to avoid tendonitis from recurring in the future. We put together a list of some tips to help avoid getting tendonitis:
- Avoid being in the same position for more than 30 minutes at a time.
- Learn and practice proper posture.
- Use both hands when carrying heavy objects.
- Stop any activity if you feel pain.
- Avoid sitting with your leg folded under.
- Before exercising or starting a sports activity:
- Stretch and warm up before you begin.
- Wear properly sized and fitted clothes, shoes, and equipment.
- Start slow, gradually increasing your activity level.
JIS Orthopedics Can Diagnose & Treat Your Injury, And Help You Recover
If you are experiencing symptoms related to tendonitis, it is important to contact your doctor and address the condition before it worsens and prevents you from doing the things you love. Schedule an appointment with JIS Orthopedics today! We’d love to help you get your body back on track!