Definition & Overview

Tendonitis, also referred to as Tendinitis, is a condition characterized by the inflammation of the tendons, which occurs when the body’s immune system responds to an injury. This should not be confused with the term Tendonisis, which is a degenerative injury to the tendons, which does not display any signs of the immune system responding. The tendons are tough bands of tissue that connect the bone to the muscles. They are made of collagen that can withstand a significant amount of force. Unfortunately, repetitive force can cause microtears in the tendons over time.

Tendons are located all over the body, but those that are most prone to injuries are in the thumbs, knees, shoulders, hips, elbows, wrists, and the Achilles tendon. You’ll often hear tendonitis called by different names, such as a Jumper’s Knee, Golfer’s Elbow, Tennis Elbow, Swimmer’s Shoulder, or Pitcher’s Shoulder. Mild cases of tendonitis are usually due to sprains or overworking the tendons. These can be treated using medications to control the pain, and rest and physical therapy to accelerate the healing process. Severe cases are caused by trauma, which results in the tearing of the tendon. The tendons will then need to be repaired through surgery.

Cause of condition

Injuries to the tendons can be caused by a wide variety of activities, from simple actions such as clicking a mouse to improper posture during sports or home activities like gardening. Medical conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, gout, and psoriatic arthritis are also known to cause tendonitis.

However, the primary cause of the condition is poor posture and repetitive stress on the joints. It is always important to keep proper posture when performing activities, such as lifting or sports. In fact, learning to play a certain sport will almost always involve training in proper posture when performing the movements.

A good example is performing heavy weight training at the gym. The gym instructor will always guide you on the proper form when lifting weights. Another example is playing golf. There’s a correct and incorrect way to perform a golf swing. Since a golf swing involves making a sudden movement with the whole body, doing so with an incorrect form can wreak havoc on your tendons.

People of all age can have tendonitis, but those above 40 are more prone to the condition. Tendons age like any other body part. When they age, they lose elasticity making them more prone to injuries.

Key Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of tendonitis are pain of different degrees depending on the severity of the condition, and swelling accompanied by redness in the area. You’ll also notice tenderness and weakness of the joint or muscle. In some cases, the symptoms will disappear after a few days. But in severe case of tendonitis, the pain can be excruciating. If the symptoms do not disappear or if the pain is too severe, it’s best that you consult your doctor for treatment.

Complications can develop if left untreated. Mild forms of the condition can become severe. If this happens, you’ll need to undergo surgery to repair the tendon. Another scenario is that the condition develops into tendonisis. This is when degenerative changes to the tendons occur, including abnormal growth of blood vessels. Tendonisis usually does not display any symptoms because the immune system does not respond to the condition.

Who to see & types of treatment available

Your first response to tendonitis is important. If you notice swelling, redness, and pain in a limb or a joint, it would be best if you rest for a while, treat the area with ice, compress the area to relieve swelling, and elevate the area if possible. If the pain is unbearable, you can try over-the-counter pain medications like ibuprofen or acetaminophen, as long as you don’t have any reactions to those medications.

If the pain persists and the swelling gets worse, you’ll need to see your doctor to have it examined. Your doctor will need to know the symptoms you’re experiencing, when you first noticed them, and how long you’ve had them. You’ll also need to inform your doctor if you’ve tried home treatment and any medications you took to handle the pain. The doctor may also ask if you currently have another medical condition that is being treated.

Once the doctor has all this information, he or she will perform a physical exam. In most cases, a physical exam will be sufficient to diagnose the condition. However, your doctor may also opt to perform an x-ray or other imaging tests to make an accurate diagnosis.

Treatment for tendonitis is usually to control the pain and relieve the swelling. If the condition is severe, you’ll need to undergo surgery to repair the tendon. Your treatment options will include corticosteroid injections to ease pain and swelling, and Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) treatment. In a PRP treatment, the doctor will take a certain amount of your blood and process it through a centrifuge to produce platelets. These will then be injected into the affected tendon to accelerate the healing process.

If the tendon has been torn from the bones, you’ll need to undergo surgery. Fortunately, surgeries for tendonitis can be performed using minimally invasive techniques. These techniques involve the use of miniature surgical instruments that are inserted through small incisions near the affected area. The surgeon performs the repair using ultrasound equipment to guide the instruments.

If minimally invasive surgery is not available, you’ll need to go through a traditional open surgery to repair the tendon. The recovery process for open surgery is significantly longer than in a minimally invasive procedure.

After surgery, your doctor will recommend physical therapy to help you recover faster. Recovering from tendonitis does not exempt you from future injuries to other or the same tendons. To prevent this from happening, avoid doing repetitive tasks without taking the time to rest. Always make sure that you use the proper posture. If needed, take the time to undergo proper training for the activity.

References:

  • American College of Rheumatology
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