Tendonitis: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment And Prevention

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If you have tendonitis, you are not alone. Tendonitis can affect any tendon in your body and can be very painful. Tendons are rope-like cords that attach muscle to bone. There are about 4000 of them in the human body. Tendonitis occurs when these tendons become inflamed or swollen. Doctors and other medical practitioners can successfully treat the symptoms, and many people go on to live normal lives with the condition. What causes tendonitis, what does it feel like, and how can it be treated or prevented? Read on to learn more about this painful condition.

What Causes Tendonitis?

The exact cause of tendonitis and other tendinopathies is not fully understood, but there are a few potential causes:

  • Repetitive motion: Tendonitis is most likely caused by repetitive motions. It is especially common in athletes and people who work physical jobs that require continuous and repetitive movement. 
  • Aging: Aging may play a role in the development of tendonitis, as tendons weaken over time and can endure less stress after age 40. 
  • Injury or infection: Researchers don’t know exactly what causes the inflammation in tendonitis, but they believe a similar process occurs in all affected individuals. It is believed that an injury, infection, or continuous mechanical movement triggers an inflammatory response in the tendon and surrounding tissues, causing pain, swelling, and tenderness. 

Signs, Symptoms, and Risk Factors

If you work a physically demanding job that requires repetitive, stressful movement, you may be unaware that you are already experiencing the symptoms of tendonitis. Symptoms of tendonitis include:

  • Pain similar to the discomfort of muscle strain but closer to the bone 
  • A grating sensation when moving the tendon
  • Swelling in the area
  • Pain that worsens during movement and improves with rest

You may be more at risk for developing tendonitis if you have diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, or an existing infection. Other risk factors include excessive exercise, repetitive motion, and acute injury. Athletes and those over 40 years old are most at risk for developing the condition. Many people describe tendonitis pain as a dull ache that intensifies with movement. Pain and tenderness usually follow a particularly active day and typically last until movement stops.

Types of Tendonitis

There are multiple types of tendonitis. It is important to talk to your doctor to identify which type you have and create a treatment plan accordingly. Among the most common types of tendonitis are:

  • Tennis Elbow:  A pain on the backside of the elbow and forearm caused by repeated use of the tendon that bends the wrist away from the palm and is especially common in long-term tennis players.
  • Golfer’s Elbow: A pain inside the elbow down to the palm. This is especially common in golf and baseball players due to repetitive motions that strain the tendons on the inside of the elbow. 
  • Rotator cuff tenosynovitis: An inflammation of the shoulder capsule and related tendons.
  • Trigger finger or trigger thumb: An inflammation of the tendon sheath surrounding the thumb and other fingers that makes it difficult and painful to flex or extend the digits.

Treatment for Tendonitis

Treatment is mostly similar across all types of tendonitis. It can even begin at home before you see your doctor. 

  • Rest is the single most important treatment option. Resting the tendon and avoiding movement for 2-3 days can significantly reduce swelling and pain. 
  • Ice is also recommended for 20 minutes, every 2-3 hours. This can reduce swelling. 
  • Support the tendon by wrapping it with a tube bandage or a soft brace. These are available at your local pharmacy. Once the pain subsides, there are stretches and strengthening activities to prevent further episodes.

If the pain becomes extreme or is persistent over many days or if you notice additional symptoms in the affected area, go to your doctor. You may have developed an infection that needs a prescription from your doctor. Pay attention to your body if you notice more redness and swelling in the area. 

If your tendonitis is more severe, your doctor may be able to treat it with procedures such as: 

  • Percutaneous needle tenotomy: This procedure involves precise needling of the tendon to promote healing. The doctor will pierce the tendon using ultrasound guidance to incite the body’s natural healing response. 
  • Platelet-rich plasma therapy: This involves the injection of the patient’s blood to promote healing. The treatment has shown promising results in chronic tendonitis patients. 
  • Surgery: If the tendon becomes torn, your doctor may recommend reconstructive surgery to prevent further injury. 


Regular physical activity can protect your tendons from developing tendonitis. Be sure not to overexert yourself while exercising, as this can have the opposite effect. Stretching, warming up before exercising, and keeping your joints limber can also help prevent tendonitis. 

Next Steps

If you have or are at risk for tendonitis:

  • Talk to your doctor. They can begin to discover which treatments work best for you. 
  • Join a support group to pick the brains of other tendonitis patients and learn tips and tricks that could help you manage pain.

Take control of your tendonitis today. Follow the guidance of your doctor and strengthen your tendons with stretching exercises to both prevent tendonitis and provide relief from existing tendonitis.

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