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The American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery

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Tending to Your Tender Tendons

A painful and surprisingly common condition, tendinitis involves inflammation of the tendon — a band of connective tissue that links bones and muscles. Common tendinitis locations include knees, elbows, shoulders, and, of course, the Achilles tendon.

Common in ‘weekend warriors,’ tendinitis often strikes those who engage in intense exercise on an occasional basis. For example, a casual football or softball player who goes hard during athletic meet-ups every Saturday, might experience a familiar twinge of pain afterwards.

Because of its association with athletics, tendinitis may be referred to as tennis elbow or pitcher’s shoulder. The condition often first shows up in middle age, as tendons become less elastic with time.

Tendinitis Symptoms

Symptoms can vary slightly based on the individual and the severity of the condition. The following are among the most common signs of tendinitis:

  1. Sudden pain in the tendon and the area that surrounds it

  2. A dull ache when moving the affected area

  3. Mild swelling

  4. Limited range of motion

  5. Stiffness

  6. Tenderness

At-Home Care: How You Can Tend to Inflamed Tendons

When your tendinitis acts up, you’re not doomed to constant pain. A few simple strategies could relieve your discomfort. The following are a few of the best options for tending to tender tendons:

Over-The-Counter Medications

Although only a temporary solution, over-the-counter medication can dull the pain of tendonitis flares. Aspirin and ibuprofen are especially popular among regular tendinitis sufferers. In Europe (and increasingly, in the United States), many people address the problem with topical creams that contain anti-inflammatory drugs.

Ice Or Heat

Depending on the nature of your tendinitis, either ice or heat may ease the pain. Ice may be your best bet in the first few days after the discomfort strikes. It causes the blood vessels to constrict — valuable if you’re dealing with swelling. After several days, heat may prove more effective, particularly if you deal with chronic tendinitis. Not only does it relax the muscles, heat may improve blood flow to the area, thereby reducing that dull, achy feeling.

Massage

Some tendinitis sufferers swear by massage. While many visit massage therapists regularly, treatment can begin at home with self-massage. A technique known as friction massage is especially popular among those suffering tennis elbow and Achilles tendinitis. This technique involves gently rubbing back and forth where the tendon is most tender. Ideally, strokes will be perpendicular to the tendon’s fibers.

Rest

It’s rarely advice that sufferers want to hear…but sometimes, rest is the best solution for tendinitis. The struggle with this approach, however, is finding the right balance. Rest too long, and your tendons may grow stiff. At minimum, you should wait until the swelling and pain diminish.

This time of year, you may be getting ready to dive into another softball season or heading out to the trails for some summer trail running. Remember to keep in mind these techniques to tend to your tender spots. If, despite your best efforts, your tendinitis continues to bother you, medical intervention may prove necessary. Until then, take care of yourself; push too hard and you’ll be in for a world of pain.

If you have concerns for yourself or a loved one please give ORCA a call, 907.644.6055.