The tissue that attaches muscles to a bone is called a tendon. Tendonitis is an inflammation of a tendon or the muscles around a tendon.
What is tendonitis?
Tendons are located throughout your body connecting muscle to bone, which allows you to move. However, they can sometimes become inflamed or injured, which is called tendonitis.
What causes tendonitis?
Tendonitis can occur for many reasons including injury or repetitive activities (over use).
Common activities that might cause tendonitis include:
- bad posture
- workspace not being set up correctly, putting strain on your muscles to perform your daily tasks
- overexercise of tired muscles
- repetitive movements, including during sports such as tennis or golf
- sudden impact to muscles, for example running or jumping
What are the symptoms of tendonitis?
- Pain in the affected tendon
- Difficulty moving the tendon
- Heat and swelling of the affected area
- A grating feeling when moving the tendon
Common types of tendonitis
- De Quervain's
De Quervain's affects the tendons surrounding the thumb and wrist and causes pain when moving your thumb.
- Tennis elbow
Tennis elbow occurs after repetitive strain of your hand or wrist and causes pain or swelling in the tendons on the outside of your elbow. This can make it painful to use the affected arm
- Golfer's elbow
Golfer's elbow is similar to tennis elbow in that it occurs after repetitive strain of your hand and wrist and makes it painful to use the affected arm. It affects the tendons on the inside of your elbow.
- Jumper's knee
Jumper's knee occurs after repetitive strain on the knee joint, such as jumping, and causes pain and swelling around the knee.
How can tendonitis be treated?
In many cases tendon problems will get better on their own. You can relieve the symptoms by applying the RICE technique:
- Rest - stop the activity or movement that is causing the condition
- Ice - apply an ice pack to the area (you can use frozen peas if you don't have an ice pack)
- Compression - compress the area using a support or bandage
- Elevation - raise the affected area
Over the counter pain killers such as paracetamol can also help. If you have applied the RICE technique and taken painkillers but your symptoms have not improved within a few weeks then you should speak to a GP who will be able to advise on further options. In more stubborn cases you may need physiotherapy or steroid injections.
In rare cases surgery to repair a damaged tendon may be needed.
Can I do anything to prevent tendonitis?
As tendonitis is caused by injury or repetitive strain you can't always prevent it. However, there are some things you can do to reduce your risk, including:
- Warming up and stretching properly before exercise
- Watching your form, especially during a new exercise that your body is not used to
- Taking regular breaks from repetitive activities
- Making sure your desk is set up correctly so that you are not straining any part of your body and so you have good posture.