Overview and Treatment of Tendonitis: Your Tender Tendons

If you are an athlete or an active adult chances are that you experience mild to moderate discomfort in your joints from time to time. It may be a sharp, painful sensation that only occurs when you move a joint or a dull ache that lasts for hours after an activity. So what do you do? You ice it, take an ibuprofen and take several days or weeks off from your favorite activity. Once you think the problem has fixed itself you resume normal activity, only to frustratingly find that the pain quickly returns. This sounds like a case of tendonitis.

Tendonitis is defined as an inflammation of a tendon that causes joint pain, stiffness, redness, and swelling. Considered an overuse injury that commonly affects athletes and active individuals, it can also affect anyone who performs repetitive movements, such as office workers. In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 70,000 people miss work each year due to tendonitis in one form or another. Let us look at some of the most common types of tendonitis, what causes it and some things we can do to prevent it.

Patellar Tendonitis

Patellar tendonitis is known as “jumper’s knee” because it mainly affects individuals that participate in activities requiring a lot of repetitive jumping or kicking movements, such as in basketball, volleyball or soccer. As the name suggests, patellar tendonitis affects the patellar tendon, which stretches from your quadriceps, over your patellar bone (kneecap), across the knee joint and attaches to your tibia (shinbone).  This structure causes your lower leg to extend when you flex your quadriceps muscles. Pain from overuse develops because the stresses on the patellar tendon actually cause micro-tears in the tendon. This in turns causes the normal response of inflammation, swelling and of course pain. Regularly stretching and strengthening the upper leg (quadriceps) can help reduce pain and discomfort and provide more resilience against the symptoms.  

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome is an inflammation of tendons and other tissues within the wrist that form a structure known as the carpal tunnel. The carpal tunnel is the conduit from which your nerves run through from your fingers to your arm. With carpal tunnel syndrome, the tendons that make up this structure become inflamed from overuse and swelling puts pressure on the nerves running through it. This pressure causes pain and numbness in your fingers and thumb. Carpal tunnel is typically known as an occupational injury, frequently affecting people who spend a lot of time doing repetitive movements with their hands, such as office workers who use a keyboard the majority of the day. Using an appropriate ergonomic keyboard, computer mouse and desk chair can help alleviate carpal tunnel symptom or prevent the condition from occurring. In severe cases, surgical intervention is required to correct the issue and remove the pressure placed on the nerves.

Tennis Elbow

The term tennis elbow comes from the fact that it primarily affects individuals that play tennis and other racket sports. Tennis Elbow is medically known as Lateral Epicondylitis. The lateral epicondyle is a bony protrusion of the humerus bone, where it meets the elbow. It is at this location where a cluster of muscles and tendons that make up your forearm attach. Racket sports irritate this area because as you grip a racket your forearm muscles contract and apply a pulling force to the tendon attachment. At the same time as this pulling force, you also apply a rotation to the elbow and the tendon as you swing for the ball. This high-tension pulling and twisting force on the tendon causes micro tears of the tendon, which in turn cause the area to become inflamed and painful. It is easy to see how this condition might arise when taking into consideration how many swings of the racket occur in a single tennis game. Of course, this type of condition can be caused by other activities where you use a gripping and twisting motion, such as using a screwdriver. Using appropriate technique, resting and icing the area can help reduce the pain associated with tennis elbow.

Tendonitis Prevention and Healing

One commonality between all of these tendon conditions stands out, they are all overuse injuries caused by micro-tears of a tendon. Essentially small damages to the tendon stack on top of each other over time, until you have a full-blown injury. What can you do to prevent the micro tears from becoming an injury? You must rest the joint and give it time to heal. Remember, tendonitis issues are overuse issues. The repetitive and strenuous or forceful use of the joint causes tears which do not have time to heal before the next session of use, and then we use it and use it again. Without consistent rest periods, the tears quickly compound.  As we age this rest period becomes increasingly important. Our ability to recover from strenuous activity quickly decreases as and more rest is required between sessions to avoid injury. For acute and minor issues with tendonitis use of the R.I.C.E technique may help you. Resting, Icing, Compressing and Elevating the area can help combat the swelling and inflammation of the joint and tendon.

Chronic cases of tendonitis may require consultation with a doctor and might lead to a prescription for powerful anti-inflammatory drugs such a NSAIDs, Non-Steroidal-Anti-Inflammatory-Drugs. Talk with your doctor about this course of treatment. While NSAIDs are efficient at reducing pain and swelling, medical studies have shown that frequent use of NSAIDs can decrease the healing rate of tendons and can affect other areas of your health. In severe cases of tendonitis, your doctor may choose to treat you with a cortisone shot. Cortisone is an excellent anti-inflammatory and is used frequently by professional athletes to allow them to return to play quickly. However, frequent cortisone shots can have a negative impact on tendons. According to the Mayo Clinic, cortisone shots can lead to infection, nerve damage and a weakening or rupture of the tendon.

Herbal Anti-Inflammation alternatives to NSAIDs are available on our site Herbal Anti-Inflammatory. Additionally, healing tendinitis and other tendon and ligament healing can be done through herbal remedies externally Ageless Sinew Tendon Liniment and internally Tendon Mending Capsules.

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