On-Call Advice

What is tendinitis, and how is the condition treated?

Tendinitis is inflammation of the tendon or tendon sheath. What most doctors refer to as tendinitis includes both inflammatory and degenerative conditions of the tendon (tendinosis).

A tendon’s primary function is to connect a muscle to a bone, serving to transmit the force of a muscle contraction to the bone and move a body part. Another function of tendons is to absorb force, such as in the case of the Achilles tendon, which stretches out to absorb impact force when, for example, you jump down off a step.

Tendinitis results from the excessive loading of a tendon during exercise or work, causing decreased blood flow when the tendon is stretched taut and leading to inflammation or degeneration of the tendon. The condition may result from an acute injury, such as a fall, or from repetitive movement.

Pain associated with tendinitis is generally located directly over the tendon, which usually is tender to the touch. Pain also may occur with movement of a nearby joint. In some cases, using the tendon will improve the pain, while in other cases it may get worse with use.

Chronic tendinitis can result in continued damage to the tendon and may actually result in a tendon rupture, a condition typically requiring surgery to repair.

Common locations of tendinitis include the knee or knee cap (jumper’s knee), the Achilles tendon at the ankle, the elbow (golfer’s or tennis elbow), and the rotator cuff in the shoulder. The condition most commonly affects middle-aged adults but can occur at any age.

Initial treatment for tendinitis consists of resting the joint controlled by the tendon. In addition, ice and heating pads can be used to help stimulate blood flow into the tendon, and anti-inflammatory medications can help ease the pain and decrease the inflammation. Physical therapy may be prescribed to rehabilitate the tendon. Eccentric strengthening, which involves lowering a weight while the muscle gets longer, has been found particularly helpful in treating tendinitis. If the first line of treatment fails, injections with either cortisone or platelet-rich plasma can help relieve pain.

 To speak with a healthcare provider about this issue, call 1-800-SENTARA.

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