Tendonitis is an irritated or inflamed tendon. It can develop in many places in the body, but is most common in the shoulders, elbows, wrists, knees and heels. The condition often gets better with rest, but treatment may be needed if the pain persists.
What is tendonitis?
Tendonitis (also called tendinitis) describes an inflamed and painful tendon. Tendons are the bands of tissue that attach muscles to bones and help you move.
Tendon conditions can be acute (sudden-onset), such as those caused by a sports injury, or chronic (longer term), when a tendon gradually deteriorates, usually due to overuse or repetition. The terms ‘tendinopathy’ and ‘tendinosis’ describe chronic tendon conditions.
The main symptoms of tendonitis are pain and tenderness in the affected tendon, which is often worse when you move it.
Other symptoms can include:
- a grating sensation as the tendon moves
- a lump on the tendon
- weakness in the affected area
If you have symptoms of tendonitis that don’t get better after a few days’ rest, you should seek medical attention.
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 x-rays and ultrasounds may also be necessary.
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 killers, 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.
More involved treatments include shock wave therapy (a physiotherapy technique), and corticosteroid injections to reduce inflammation. In a small number of cases, surgery may be required.
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 work space and adjust your chair, keyboard and desktop to help protect your joints and tendons from excessive strain.
Last reviewed: February 2019