Tendonitis is a very common condition that affects both men and women alike, and while it can happen at any age, its incidence occurs more with age. Tendonitis is a generic term that basically means inflammation (itis) of the tendon. A tendon is a tough, fibrous tissue that attaches any muscle to a bone, and therefore tendons are very abundant in the human body.
Typically, we classify tendonitis by two ways: the area which it affects, for e.g. patellar tendonitis affects the tendon in the kneecap; and sometimes by the activity that caused it, like tennis elbow (the outside of the elbow), or golfer’s elbow (the inside of the elbow). Either way, tendonitis can be a very painful and a limiting factor in our day to day activities.
In most cases, tendonitis is a case of overuse and repetitive strain that causes excessive pressure on the tendon leading to inflammation and pain. Because this sort of injury happens over time, there may not be any one isolated incident that stands out. In fact, it typically start as an annoying pain that comes and goes, but over time becomes much more prominent and consistent. A perfect example of this is Rotator Cuff (shoulder) tendonitis which may cause pain, stiffness, swelling, decreased range of motion, and even weakness.
Essentially, tendonitis starts out as very small microscopic tears in the tendon that will gradually become larger if left untreated. The good news is that these sorts of conditions can very easily be avoided and treated effectively if addressed early. It’s always advised that proper stretching and warm up be performed before any sporting activity to help reduce muscle tension. Good posture and proper mechanical techniques while performing sports is critical in minimizing tendon and muscle strain. Also, respect the limits of your body and be aware that as we age our bodies need more warming up and cooling down. So if you’re a weekend warrior try to always ease into activity and always perform the proper warm up and stretching required. And a word of caution for parents with young athletes, due to today’s hectic training and competition schedules we are seeing kids in our offices younger and younger with tendonitis and repetitive strain injuries from over training and insufficient recovery periods.
If you already suffer from any form of tendonitis, there is help. Rest is essential for the recovery and the healing to take place. The use of ice on a new injury (less than 48 hours) will help to contain and reduce inflammation. Medications such as Non Steroid Anti- Inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or cortisone injections may also be useful to decrease inflammation and pain, but of course always check with your health care provider before taking any medications. Physical Therapy with the use of ultrasound, laser, electrical stimulation, therapeutic exercises and splinting for proper mechanics and rest has proven to be an excellent non invasive treatment option for these kinds of injuries. But, remember, if left untreated tendonitis may lead to a much more sinister problem like complete tendon rupture which can only be fixed by surgery followed by extensive rehab.