Overview of Tendonitis
A tendon is a flexible fibrous tissue that connects the muscles to the bones. A muscle enables the body to move – when the muscle contracts, it triggers action to the bone. Therefore, jumping, walking, running, and so forth is the result of the teamwork of bones and muscles working in harmony and held together by tendons. The tendon comes in different size and shapes. Some are small, like the tendons on your fingers while some are much larger, like the one in your heel, called the Achilles tendon. Normally, tendons glide smoothly and easily as your muscles contract, but sometimes, they become inflamed and the movement is impaired; this condition is called tendonitis. What is tendonitis? The word literally translates to swelling of the tendon – this is very irritating and painful.
Causes of Tendonitis
A tendon is normally soft and elastic, however constant pulling and movement makes it dense and stiff and susceptible to tear and swelling. There are a hundred tendons in our body and a hundred causes of tendonitis. Here are the most common:
There is an area in our body experts call the “watershed zone,” which is a weak area with poor blood supply, tissue damage, and slow healing response. Because this is the weakest and most vulnerable area, we generally see tendon problems here and usually the same problem in the same body parts.
- Tendonitis is an overuse injury, common to athletes and people aged 40-60 years old. Tendons are not as forgiving and elastic as they were in the younger years, yet the body is still putting forth the same force, if not more.
- There are also cases where the tendons are anatomically incorrect and become irritated and inflamed; these rare situations call for surgical treatment to realign and correct the tendon.
Signs and Symptoms
- Pain with movement
Tendonitis can be diagnosed by physical examination directly over the tendon. Although MRI and Xrays are not required for diagnosis, they must be performed to make sure that there is no other problem, like fracture, which may be the cause of swelling and pain. Common tendon areas that are susceptible to tendonitis are the wrist, back of the heel (Achilles), posterior tibial, patellar tendonitis (kneecap), rotator cuff tendonitis (shoulder bursitis), and lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow).
Here is some advice on how to treat tendonitis, and how to avoid recurrence of this condition. Like any treatment program, discuss with your doctor before starting any tendonitis treatment.
Apply ice pack on the damaged site. The ice will manage the swelling and decrease inflammation. By minimizing the distension, the tendon will go back to its normal condition and perform smoothly as usual.
- Rest and protect the injury. This means taking a break from sports or your usual activity. You can switch to an alternative workout; if you are a tennis player with tennis elbow, for example, you can exercise on a stationary bike while your tendonitis is healing. Often, a brace or splint will be arranged to protect the area.
- Take NSAID (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication) such as Ibuprofen, Motrin, Celebrex, or Naprosyn to decrease swelling and pain. Have a discussion with your doctor first before taking any medications.
- Cortisone injections should only be considered if the symptoms are persistent and need a more powerful dose of medication. Cortisone is a stronger anti-inflammatory medication drug than a NSAID, and is injected directly into the area of inflammation. Achilles tendonitis is hardly ever injected with this medication because of possible rupture of the said tendon.
Young or old, male or female – we have all had our share of tendonitis. We may have referred to it as pain and swelling, but now that we know what tendonitis is, we must take care of our body to prevent this condition. Always stretch before any strenuous activities and do not overdo workouts; listen to your body, it will always tell you once it has had enough. To avoid recurrence, rest and listen to your doctor. Do not go back to your usual demanding activity until you have treated your tendonitis and your doctor has given permission to proceed.
For more information on what is tendonitis and how to relieve the pain with exercise, please read Tendonitis Exercises for Elbows, Knees and Feet.
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