Tendinitis is inflammation of a tendon. A tendon is a group of cord like fibers which attach a muscle to a bone. Tendons can become irritated either through overuse or trauma. As one ages, tendons may be more susceptible to inflammation. Common areas for tendinitis are the inside or outside of the elbow, the thumb or index finger, and the ankle.
Overuse is the most common cause of tendinitis and generally occurs after an activity s resumed too quickly following a long period of inactivity. For example, a person does not play tennis for the winter and then resumes the sport in the spring, at too high of an activity level. Repetitive activity is also a form of overuse, such as the constant use of drill or screwdriver.
Trauma can also cause tendinitis. If the elbow is hit or struck, “tennis elbow” or lateral epicondylitis may result.
Pain is the primary symptom. Pain begins slowly and increases over several weeks. The discomfort is commonly described as hot or burning and the areas may actually feel warm. Swelling may also be present. In more severe cases, the pain may be present at all times and begin to expand away from the area of initial pain. If the tendinitis has not become excessive, pain may be felt only during use.
Treatment depends on the severity of the inflammation. Your physician may prescribe anti-inflammatory medications, and rest is a primary consideration. Since the tendon attaches directly to the muscle, use of the muscle places stress on the tendon, which will continue to irritate the tendon. A splint may be issued to temporarily immobilize the affected area and prevent use of the muscle.
Therapeutic modalities such as ultrasound, electrical stimulation and heat may decrease pain and inflammation. There are therapeutic exercises and stretches which can speed recovery and return you back to pain free function. It is important to follow guidelines for the rest and exercise, because tendinitis can become re-inflamed very easily.
If you have multiple episodes of tendinitis in the same over several years, you may find it takes longer to heal. If symptoms persist for a long time, anti-inflammatory injections or sometimes surgery may be indicated. Consult your doctor or health professional for further information.
Ewing native Richard Stoneking has been a physical therapist since 1979 and in private practice in New Jersey since 1989. Stoneking brings a broad background of experience to his patients having worked in the home health, hospital acute care, and skilled nursing setting. To learn more, visit stonekingptwellness.com or call (609) 883-7528 to make an appointment.