Tendons are the thick, fibrous chords that attach our muscles to the bone. Tendonitis is the irritation and inflammation of these tendons, which can lead to increased pain and weakness with movement.
The recovery process of tendonitis can often be slower than in other injuries because tendons, by comparison to muscles, do not receive a rich supply of blood. An untreated and inflamed tendon can be constantly exacerbated through daily activities, and will interfere with normal function.
Tendonitis is an overuse injury and is caused by repetitive motions. Symptoms include pain and stiffness around the joint, as well as heat and redness of the affected area. The pain tends to become worse during and after the activity that initially aggravated the tendon, followed by stiffness the next morning. Once a tendon is injured it can remain weak and at risk for a re-injury if untreated.
Tendonitis is particularly common among athletes, although the area affected will often vary depending on the sport. Swimmers and baseball players may develop tendonitis of the biceps and supraspinatus tendons of the shoulder, while runners and basketball players often suffer from achilles and patellar tendonitis.
Golfers, along with tennis and hockey players, are prone to tendonitis of the wrist extensors and flexors, due to the repetitive swinging motions that are required for their respective sports.
If a tendonitis injury is suspected, it is important to cease the activity that lead to injury (as well as any activities that cause increased pain) so that the inflammation can subside and the tendon can heal. Physical therapy, in combination with anti-inflammatory medications and proper rest, will help to manage this condition.
A physical therapy protocol will initially include ice and ultrasound to reduce inflammation and stretching exercises to address the stiffness at the tendon. Therapists will then work with the patient to retrain the specific muscles surrounding the joint to ensure proper body mechanics, prevent re-injury of the tendon, and allow for a complete pain-free return to activities.