Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Tendinitis

6-minute read

Key facts

  • Tendinitis (also called tendonitis or tendinopathy) is an inflamed tendon.
  • Tendons are the bands of tissue that connect muscles to bones and help the body to move.
  • Tendinitis is usually caused by repeated excessive use and load on a particular tendon.
  • The main symptoms of tendinitis are pain, reduced motion, swelling and weakness.
  • Tendinitis often gets better with rest, but treatment may be needed if the pain persists.

What is tendinitis?

Tendinitis (also called tendonitis or tendinopathy) is an inflamed tendon. Tendons are the bands of tissue that connect muscles to bones and help the body to move.

Tendinitis can develop in many places in the body but is most common in the shoulder (rotator cuff), elbow (triceps tendon), wrist and ankles (Achilles tendon).

It can be acute (sudden onset), such as tendinitis caused by a sports injury, or chronic (longer term), when a tendon gradually deteriorates, usually due to overuse or repeated movements.

What are the symptoms of tendinitis?

The main symptoms of tendinitis include:

  • pain and tenderness in the affected tendon, which is often worse when you move it
  • swelling
  • a grating sensation as the tendon moves
  • a lump on the tendon
  • weakness in the affected area
  • decreased range of motion

CHECK YOUR SYMPTOMS — Use the Symptom Checker and find out if you need to seek medical help.

What causes tendinitis?

Tendinitis is usually caused by repeated excessive use and load on a particular tendon. This overuse injury is often seen in athletes who repeatedly use a tendon without giving enough time for it to recover.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have symptoms of tendinitis that don’t get better after a few days of rest, you should seek medical attention.

ASK YOUR DOCTOR — Preparing for an appointment? Use the Question Builder for general tips on what to ask your GP or specialist.

How is tendinitis diagnosed?

Diagnosis of tendinitis is usually straightforward. A doctor is likely to examine the affected area and ask about how you injured the tendon. Imaging tests such as MRI and ultrasounds may also help with the diagnosis, but are not always necessary.

FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — The Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.

How is tendinitis treated?

The condition often gets better with rest, but treatment may be needed if the pain persists. The best treatment will depend on which tendon is affected.

Tendinitis usually only lasts a few days but can last for longer. If you have a sore tendon, it’s important to rest it. You can apply ice packs and take pain-relief medication, and in some cases, using a brace can be helpful.

To prevent swelling, avoid hot baths, heat packs, alcohol and massages for the first few days. When it’s not painful, try to keep moving so the tendon doesn’t become stiff.

Rehabilitation exercises, as suggested by a doctor or physiotherapist, may also help you recover full movement and function.

If the problem does not get better, you may need treatments such as shock wave therapy (a physiotherapy technique), and injections of corticosteroids or other medicines to reduce inflammation. In a small number of cases, surgery may be required.

Can tendinitis be prevented?

If you’ve had tendinitis before, you can help prevent further injury by using the following techniques:

  • Warming up and cooling down, before and after exercising.
  • Learning correct techniques if you play a sport.
  • Strengthening muscles in the affected area.

You may also need an ergonomic assessment of your workspace, which may include an adjustment of your chair, keyboard and desktop positions. This may help protect your joints and tendons from excessive strain.

Complications of tendinitis

Severe tendinitis can take many months or even years to fully heal. This slow recovery time can be very challenging and frustrating, especially for athletes who are hoping to return to their sport, or if tendinitis affects your daily activities.

Resources and support

The Emergency Care Institute provides a fact sheet about the causes, symptoms and treatment of tendinitis of the elbow.

Visit The Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) to learn how physiotherapy can help your injuries, and how to find a physiotherapist.

Call healthdirect on 1800 022 222 at any time to speak to a registered nurse (known as NURSE-ON-CALL in Victoria) for more information and advice.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: June 2023


Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Achilles tendinitis - myDr.com.au

Achilles tendinitis is inflammation of the Achilles tendon. It can be caused by overly tight calf muscles and excessive uphill or downhill running, amongst other things.

Read more on myDr website

Achilles tendinopathy - Better Health Channel

People who run regularly seem to be susceptible to Achilles tendonitis

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Tendinopathy (Tendonitis) - Better Health Channel

Most cases of tendonitis recover completely, but severe untreated tendonitis can lead to rupture of the tendon.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Posterior tibial tendon injury - myDr.com.au

Posterior tibial tendonitis occurs when the posterior tibial tendon becomes inflamed or torn, causing pain on the inside of the shin, ankle or foot.

Read more on myDr website

Leg (knee to ankle) - superficial posterior view - myDr.com.au

View the calf muscles and achilles tendon in this illustration of the lower leg.

Read more on myDr website

Diffuse Idiopathic Skeletal Hyperostosis (DISH) — Arthritis Australia

DISH is a form of ARTHRITIS that involves the tendons and ligaments around the spine. Also known as Forestiers Disease, this condition occurs when the tendons and ligaments become hardened, a process known as calcification.

Read more on Arthritis Australia website

Rotator cuff injury - myDr.com.au

Rotator cuff injury is usually a strain or tear of the rotator cuff - the group of muscles and tendons that hold the shoulder joint in place.

Read more on myDr website

Shoulder impingement syndrome - myDr.com.au

Shoulder impingement syndrome is caused by pinching of the supraspinatus tendon and bursa between the upper arm bone and roof of the shoulder.

Read more on myDr website

Tennis elbow - myDr.com.au

Tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylitis, is a condition where the outside portion of the elbow becomes painful and the pain may radiate into the forearm and wrist.

Read more on myDr website

Sever's disease - Better Health Channel

Sever's disease is a common cause of heel pain, particularly in the young and physically active.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Queensland Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Victorian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo

Healthdirect Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners and to Elders both past and present.