Have you ever been told you have golfer’s elbow? Jumper’s knee? Tennis elbow? Pitcher’s shoulder? What you are really being told is you have a form of tendonitis in a specific area. But don’t fret! Tendonitis is typically easily treatable!
As a physical therapy clinic, one of the most common injuries we see is tendonitis. But what is it? How is it caused? How can it be treated?
In order to understand tendinitis you also need to understand what a tendon is and what it does in your body (that’s right – we’re going back to anatomy class).
A tendon is a flexible and fibrous tissue that attaches the muscle to bone. If you were thinking the tendon was what connected bone to bone – that’s a ligament! Both the tendon and ligament are made up of collagen, but perform different tasks in the body. The tendon works to move the bone while the ligament works to hold parts of the body together.
So what is tendonitis?
Tendonitis occurs when there is inflammation or irritation of the tendon. When diagnosed with tendonitis, you most likely will hear a specific body part named. For example, if you have tendonitis in your knee, you may be told that you have patellar tendonitis.
What causes it?
Tendonitis is known as an overuse injury. It is most often caused be repetitive movement or from a sudden injury. Most commonly, tendonitis develops in patients with jobs, hobbies, or sports that require the same repetitive movements time and time again. For example, think of a pitcher, gardener, or painter. All of these require the same movement over and over again which wears on the tendon resulting in tendonitis.
Other causes include: aging, abnormalities in the bone or joint (i.e. difference in limb lengths), or stress from other conditions like diabetes and arthritis.
How is tendonitis treated?
These may not be your favorite answers, but…
Rest – For anyone who was diagnosed because of work or something that is their passion, this may not be easy or even possible. If you have to continue whatever it is that caused the tendonitis in the first place, try to minimize how much of that activity you are having to do.
Physical therapy – We aren’t saying this because we are physical therapists but because there is evidence that physical therapy works in individuals with tendonitis. From the manual therapy to the different exercises and stretches that a physical therapist can walk you through, a physical therapist knows what you need in order to overcome the tendonitis.
Heat and/or ice – Every individual is different. Some people get more benefits from ice while others get more benefits from heat. Depending on what works for you, heat or ice regularly. Be sure that you aren’t icing or heating for longer than 15 minutes at a time though. We tend to use ice for newer injuries, pain, and swelling (inflammation); and we tend to use heat for tightness and stiffness.
Steroid injections – In some cases, steroid injections can help with the symptoms but are not supposed to act as a cure. Limit the number of injections you receive as the injections can actually weaken the tendon which could result in a tendon rupture.
Again, tendonitis in most circumstances is easily treatable! If you are experiencing pain that sounds like tendonitis given the information above, consult with your doctor or physical therapist.