Tendinitis: Types, symptoms, causes, and treatment

Tendinitis, also known as tendonitis, is the inflammation of a tendon. It happens when a person overuses or injures a tendon, for example, during sport. It is normally linked to an acute injury with inflammation.

It often affects the elbow, wrist, finger, thigh, and other parts of the body.

The body part that is involved may give the injury its name, for example, Achilles tendinitis. Familiar terms are tennis or golfer’s elbow, jumper’s knee, and pitcher’s shoulder.

Tendinitis can occur at any age, but it is more common among adults who do a lot of sport. Older people are also susceptible, because the tendons tend to lose elasticity and become weaker with age.

Tendinosis has similar symptoms, but it is a chronic, or long-term, condition, and it is degenerative.

Fast facts on tendinitis:

Here are some key points about tendinitis. More detail is in the main article.

Tendinitis usually happens when overuse or injury puts strain on the tendons.

Common name includes Achilles tendonitis, tennis elbow, and housemaid’s knee.

Treatment includes rest, ice and heat treatment, and over-the-counter pain killers.

Without treatment, it can result in a rupture, which may need surgery.

What is tendinitis?

Tendonitis is a painful inflammation that often results from overuse.
Tendonitis is a painful inflammation that often results from overuse.

A tendon is tissue that attaches muscle to the bone. It is flexible, tough and fibrous and it can withstand tension. A ligament extends from bone to bone at a joint, while a tendon extends from muscle to bone.

Tendons and muscles work together and exert a pulling force. Tendons and ligaments are tough and fibrous, but they are known as soft tissue, because they are soft compared with bone.

If the sheath around the tendon becomes inflamed, rather than the tendon itself, the condition is called tenosynovitis. Tendinitis and tenosynovitis can occur together.

Types

Different types of tendinitis affect different parts of the body.

Achilles tendinitis

The Achilles tendon is between the heel and the calf muscle. Achilles tendinitis is a common sports injury. It may also be caused by shoes that fit badly or do not properly support the foot. It is more likely among patients with rheumatoid arthritis.

Supraspinatus tendinitis

With supraspinatus tendinitis, the tendon around the top of the shoulder joint becomes inflamed, causing pain when the arm is moved, especially upwards.

Some patients may find it painful to lie on the affected shoulder at night. If other tendons in the same area are also affected, the patient may have rotator cuff syndrome.

Tennis or golfer’s elbow

A common symptom of lateral epicondylitis, commonly known as tennis elbow, is pain on the outer side of the elbow. It may radiate down towards the wrist.

Medial epidondylitis or golfer’s elbow is pain on the inner side of the elbow, and it is more common among golfers. Pain is more acute when trying to lift against a force. The pain sometimes radiates down to the wrist.

De Quervain’s stenosing tenosynovitis

The sheath that surrounds the thumb tendons, between the thumb and wrist, becomes inflamed. With the thickened sheath and swelling in the area, it becomes painful to move the thumb.

Trigger finger or thumb

The finger or thumb clicks when straightened out. It becomes fixed in a bent position because the tendon sheath in the palm of the hand is thickened and inflamed and does not allow the tendon to move smoothly. Sometimes a nodule forms along the tendon.

Tendinitis of the wrist

This can affect badminton players and production line workers, who repeatedly use the same motion with their wrist. Tendinopathy is another type of injury that affects the wrist tendons. This is a degenerative condition rather than an inflammation.

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Symptoms

Symptoms occur where the tendon attaches to a bone.

They usually include:

pain which worsens on movement

a feeling that the tendon is crackling or grating as it moves

swelling, heat, and redness

a lump may develop along the tendon

If there is a rupture, a gap may be felt in the line of the tendon, and movement will be difficult.

Symptoms may last from a few days to several weeks or months.

Causes and risk factors

Common causes include:

sudden injury

repetition of a movement over time

Tendinitis often develops in people whose jobs or hobbies involve repetitive movements, as this aggravates the tendons.

Other risk factors include:

Age: Tendons become less flexible with age and more susceptible to injury.

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