What is tendonitis?
Tendonitis (also called tendinitis or tendinopathy) is an irritated or inflamed tendon. Tendons are the bands of tissue that connect muscles to bones and help the body to move.
Tendonitis 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 tendonitis caused by a sports injury, or chronic (longer term), when a tendon gradually deteriorates, usually due to overuse or repetition.
What are the symptoms of tendonitis?
The main symptoms of tendonitis are:
- pain and tenderness in the affected tendon, which is often worse when you move it
- a grating sensation as the tendon moves
- a lump on the tendon
- weakness in the affected area
- decreased range of motion
When should I see my doctor?
If you have symptoms of tendonitis that don’t get better after a few days’ rest, you should seek medical attention.
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How is tendonitis diagnosed?
Diagnosis of tendonitis 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 be necessary.
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How is tendonitis 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.
Tendonitis often 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 medications to reduce inflammation. In a small number of cases, surgery may be required.
Can tendonitis be prevented?
If you’ve had tendonitis before, you can help prevent further injury by making sure you warm up and warm down before and after exercising, learning correct techniques if you play a sport, and strengthening muscles in the affected area.
You may also need an ergonomic assessment of your workspace and adjust your chair, keyboard and desktop to help protect your joints and tendons from excessive strain.
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Last reviewed: March 2021