What is Tendinitis?

Tendinitis is a condition in which the tissue that connects the muscles to the adjacent bones becomes irritated or inflamed. It can occur in any location of the body, but it is most frequently seen in the tendons of the knees, heels, elbows, shoulders, and wrists. The more common types of tendinitis include golfer’s elbow, pitcher’s shoulder, jumper’s knee, tennis elbow, and swimmer’s shoulder. Severe tendinitis can eventually lead to a ruptured tendon.

Tendinitis sometimes manifests after a sudden injury, but it is more often due to repetitious motions over a period of time. Many cases develop because the patient’s hobbies or job require repetitive movement that puts stress on the tendons needed to do those tasks. Older adults are more susceptible to developing tendinitis, especially if they are active in sports like golf, running, and swimming. Other activities commonly associated with the injury include raking, shoveling, gardening, and carpentry.

What are the Symptoms of Tendinitis?

Tendinitis is characterized by pain where the tendon attaches to the bone, usually reported as a dull ache that arises when the affected area is moved. This pain can build gradually or strike suddenly and be quite severe. Patients also commonly experience mild swelling and tenderness. Tendinitis in the shoulder can result in loss of motion of the joint. A medical professional should evaluate the injury when symptoms become persistent and begin to interfere with daily activities for any lengthy period of time.

Tendinitis Causes

Tendinitis develops when tendons are inflamed or irritated. Tendinitis can occur in the shoulder, wrist, heel, elbow or knee as a result of injury, aging or diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, gout or diabetes. Usually, people who play sports or participate in other forms of physical activity are at higher risk for developing tendinitis. Playing sports like basketball, swimming, tennis, baseball, golf, bowling, or jogging poses a greater risk of developing tendinitis.

If you work a physically demanding job, or a job involving repetitive movements, you are more likely to develop tendinitis. If you’re working in an environment in which you have to sit, stand or move awkwardly or repeatedly reach overhead, your chances of developing tendinitis are somewhat higher.

Joint deformities, a poorly positioned joint or bone, and side effects from certain medications can also cause tendinitis. Your primary care physician can help you determine what kinds of treatments are available.

How is a Tendinitis Treated?

In most cases, tendinitis will respond well to at-home care. Following RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) is a good place to start, although it is worth noting that too much inactivity may lead to joint stiffness. Over-the-counter pain relievers are beneficial in relieving swelling and discomfort. If necessary, a doctor can prescribe corticosteroids or recommend various types of physical therapy. The most severe cases may require surgical repair.

Tendinitis Prevention

To reduce the chance of getting tendonitis, take it easy on activities causing strain on your tendons for long periods of time. Anytime you feel pain, take a break and rest immediately. Try different exercises. Oftentimes, mixing things up a little can help reduce the stress on your tendons. Stretching can also help to relieve tendon pain. After exercising, take some time to stretch your joints.

If you work in an office, try using ergonomics to properly adjust your chair, keyboard and desk for your recommended height and arm length, as well as typical daily tasks. Using proper posture when working at your desk and avoiding being in the same position too long can also prevent tendinitis. Try to get up from your desk periodically and move around. Do some range of motion exercises to help improve flexibility and relieve stiffness.

Last Reviewed:
October 11, 2016
Last Updated:
March 30, 2018