What do you do when you love playing a certain sport? You do it over and over again. What can happen to your body when you repeat actions over and over? Tendinitis. It can even happen if you’re forced into repetitive motions in your job, which pays you money, which is another thing that you like. Basically, what I’m saying is that the people most likely to get tendinitis are not likely to give up the activities causing it. If you’re not going to give up whatever is causing your tendinitis, you need to learn to treat it before serious problems pop up. Tendinitis commonly occurs in the elbow, knee, shoulder, and heel. Don’t confuse tendinitis with carpal tunnel, although they’re very similar. Your tendon (that thing that attaches muscles to bones) gets irritated and swollen, and this doesn’t feel good. It can potentially occur around any joint and is a result of overuse, injury, aging, and sometimes diseases like rheumatoid arthritis.
- Tendon pain near a joint
- Pain that worsens with activity
Best Treatments for Tendinitis
A healthy body can handle strenuous activity more easily; this also prevents injury. If there’s no way you’re going to stop playing tennis, then get your body in better shape. Drink lots of water and stretch before and after sports (or work, if that’s causing the problem). Weight lifting or resistance training (using resistance bands like these sold at Amazon) is good for your whole body but will especially help your problem area. (That’s for the twenty-two-year-old marathoner as well as the sixty-year-old who’s losing her groove.) Choosing another sport to cross train will help strengthen different body parts as well as give the stressed ones a break.
When the pain starts, give it a rest. The problem with this is, it is much easier said than done. Taking a break from a sport you do for fun is relatively simple. If you’re an athlete, or have to make repetitive or strenuous motions for your job, it may not be as easy. To the athlete: bite the bullet and possibly skip out on the event you’re training for. At work, talk to a superior or other coworkers to see if any changes can be made in daily duties, or start wearing a brace or compression bandages (Amazon sells a wide variety of ACE brand bandages).
Mild tendinitis will get better with home care. Besides resting, there are a few things you can do at home to help manage tendinitis. Applying ice throughout the day will reduce swelling and will temporarily relieve pain. Over-the-counter pain relievers will do the same. Elevating injuries is always helpful, too. Try out a brace, sling, compression bandage, crutch—whatever works for your injury—and see if it helps. If you haven’t been stretching, start now. You may want to see a doctor anyway, but definitely make an appointment if the pain won’t go away.
A doctor can pinpoint the problem and help you to overcome it. After an examination and maybe some X-rays or other tests, your doctor will tell you how to fix it. This might include physical therapy sessions to stretch and strengthen the tendon in question, steroid or cortisone injections to reduce swelling, or (in rare and severe cases) surgery. Your doctor will probably recommend some of the aforementioned home care methods as well.
Build your own physical therapy regimen. This is obviously not one-hundred percent reliable without a doctor’s or specialist’s endorsement, and it will not replace her advice, but it may help. Try out some physical activity that uses different motions from the one causing you pain. I absolutely love yoga; it both strengthens you and stretches you out. There are a few stretches listed below designed for tendinitis in the patella, rotator cuff, and Achilles tendon. There are specific stretches outside of these, though, and some quick research will help with that.
For knee (patella) pain: Stand in front of a chair. Put one foot top-down on the seat, pointing your knee away and down from your body. Lean forward while keeping your other foot firmly on the floor and hold. Change legs and repeat. You should feel the stretch in the quad of your straight leg.
For heel/ankle (Achilles tendon) pain: Put both hands about shoulder-height against a wall, and step one leg back. Keep both feet flat on the floor and lean forward, bending your front leg, and hold. Change legs and repeat. You should feel the stretch in the back of your calf.
For elbow (tennis elbow) pain: Put your palms together (fingers up, elbows out) just below your chin. Lower your arms without separating your hands, feeling the stretch in your lower forearm.
Complications of Tendinitis
Symptoms will generally improve with time and proper treatment, but you need to keep on top of it. If your tendinitis is left untreated, it will keep causing more damage to the tendon in question, possibly rupturing it at some point down the road. That will probably hurt a bit more than the irritation you’re feeling now. Even if the tendon doesn’t actually rupture, injuries are more likely with a weak and inflamed tendon. Your symptoms can also return if you’re not careful. So, even if your physical therapy exercises are boring, time consuming, or in some other way irritating to you, please don’t skip out on them or any other doctor-recommended treatment. They are much less annoying than the continual pain or surgery you might have to go through later if your condition is allowed to run amok.