Tendinitis and tendonopathy: physical therapy can help

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Tendonitis (also called tendonitis) is an acute condition in which the tendons that connect muscle to bone become inflamed. This inflammation can cause pain, loss of movement of the tendon, and decreased strength of the muscle to which the tendon is connected.

Tendons are fibrous collagen ligaments that serve as flexible anchors to connect muscle to bone in and around the body's joints. They come in all shapes and sizes, from the small ones that allow our fingers to move to the larger ones like the Achilles tendon that help us stand or walk.

There are many reasons why a tendon can become inflamed, and when it does, it can often be painful. Pain may be felt where the tendon meets the bone. It can also be felt at the junction of the muscle and tendon.

Tendon problems are commonly known as tendinopathy. It is a general term that simply refers to any abnormal condition of a tendon. These conditions can cause pain, swelling, and limited mobility.

Get Medical Information / Jessica Olah

Causes of tendonitis

Although there are hundreds of tendons throughout the body, tendonitis affects only a small part of them. These tendons tend to have fewer blood vessels at their service, and a lack of blood supply prevents them from recovering from injury. The parts of the tendon most affected are called watersheds, where the blood supply is weakest.

Tendonitis is most commonly caused by overuse of the tendon during work, sports, or daily activities. This is most often associated with repetitive movements, such as when working on an assembly line or in sports such as golf or tennis, where the action is repeated excessively.

A direct injury, such as a blow to a tendon, can also cause tendonitis. Inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis can also cause both sudden (acute) and persistent (chronic) tendon inflammation .

Tendonitis is more common in people over the age of 40, and the risk and severity of symptoms tend to increase with age.

Common sites of tendonitis

Tendonitis can occur in almost any part of the body that has tendons and is generally classified by their location. Since this condition is often associated with repetitive movements, we tend to see it in people who routinely perform certain tasks or play certain sports. Some of the more common types include:

  • Achilles tendonitis involving the tendon between the calf muscle and the heel .
  • Patellar tendonitis , sometimes called jumper's knee
  • Elbow tendonitis, commonly known as tennis elbow or golfer's elbow
  • Biceps tendonitis generally affects the tendon between the biceps arm and its attachment to the shoulder joint.
  • Known swimmer's rotator cuff tendonitis
  • Wrist tendonitis, sometimes called a bowler's wrist

Symptoms and diagnosis

Tendinitis is usually characterized by recent onset of pain and inflammation and should not be confused with tendinosis, in which there are structural signs of tendon degeneration. In many cases, the onset of symptoms will be gradual, often associated with a period of excessive activity and without serious injury. Symptoms can appear gradually and get worse over time.

The most common signs of tendonitis include:

  • Tendon tumor
  • Pain directly over the tendon
  • Pain when moving the affected area.
  • Cracking or grinding sensation when the joint moves
  • The appearance of a lump or lump in the tendon itself.
  • Stiffness due to edema

The diagnosis is usually based on the medical history and physical examination. If the cause is unclear or if there are comorbidities, the doctor may order additional tests. X-rays and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can be helpful in evaluating additional causes of symptoms.

Watch out

Treatment of tendonitis includes three elements:

  • Initial limitation of movement of the affected tendon .
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Rehabilitation of damaged tendons, joints and muscles, including restoring normal tendon mobility and resistance to stress.

This can be done by immobilizing the damaged joint to relieve pressure on the affected tendon. In the first few days, ice or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen can be used to reduce swelling and pain.

The main goal of treatment is to minimize movement, which can cause more inflammation. Depending on where the tendonitis is located, you may need to shorten or change simple daily tasks, such as driving a car or writing, until the symptoms are completely gone.

For people with recurrent or severe symptoms, corticosteroid injections can be used for short- or medium-term relief. Overuse of injections should be avoided as this can weaken the tendon over time and increase the risk of rupture.

Treatment may be followed by physical therapy to manipulate and massage the affected area. Recovery is usually faster, often with full range of motion restored.

Staying fit and minimizing sudden changes in activity levels can help reduce your risk of tendonitis.

Get the word of drug information

Tendonitis can be a painful condition that limits your ability to do your normal work or play. If you suspect you have tendonitis, see a physical therapist and get treatment right away.

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