Login | September 29, 2020

Tendonitis explained

Pete’s World

Published: December 2, 2019

We’re all familiar with the term tendonitis, and most of us––anyone who’s ever been involved in physical activities––has probably experienced a bout or two of this painful affliction.
Heck, had I a dollar for each and every area of my body that’s endured tendonitis, I’d be a rich man, so I thought it appropriate to take a quick look at this oft diagnosed malady.
First, let’s review what exactly a tendon is, what it does and why this tissue is so susceptible to injury. Tendons are fibrous bands of tissue that connect muscle to bone, and they’re primarily made up of collagen. Some tendons are small and delicate, like those in the hands, other tendons are large and rope-like, such as those in calf and thigh muscles.
In addition to being a tissue connecting muscle to bone, the tendon possesses an elastic property so it can both bend at joints and absorb shock - the latter of which helps to minimize potential muscle damage.
Now the collagen fibers that make up a tendon have to be strong in order to endure all the forces imposed upon them. And these fibers are strong, so strong that they actually posses the highest tensile strength of all the body’s soft tissue fibers.
But alas, there’s a downside to these brawny tendon tissues, and that’s the fact that their blood supply is meager at best––they receive their nourishment instead from a joint’s synovial fluid. Therefore a tendon’s paltry blood supply makes for a much slower healing process when it’s injured, this compared to a speedier healing process in the more blood-rich soft tissues like muscle.
And this leads us to tendonitis, which the Cleveland Clinic defines as, “an inflammation or irritation of a tendon. Tendinitis can be either acute or chronic in nature. Tendinitis most often is caused by repetitive, minor impact on the affected area, or from a sudden, more serious injury.”
Typically, pain in the tissues surrounding a particular joint is the initial sign of tendonitis, especially if the joint in question has been repeatedly used during work and/or sporting activities. And in addition to the pain, one might experience joint weakness, swelling, redness and warmth in the affected area.
If these signs and symptoms continue for several days, and they interfere with your daily sporting/work activities, then you really want to think about a visit to your doc.
That’s precisely the juncture at which I advise my clients to have a doc look to confirm whether the aforementioned signs are indeed symptomatic of a tendonitis. In addition to the visual inspection, your doc may also have you perform some specific movements patterns to better ascertain what particular tendon could be affected.
Now with respect to tendonitis treatment, well, most people hate to hear it, but it all begins with rest, and that’s with a capital “R.” Resting the affected area and avoiding any activity that may cause pain is crucial to the tendon’s recovery process. You can continue your normal health and fitness routine as long as you’re not stressing the affected area.
And understand that some forms of tendonitis may require weeks of rest to dissipate, so you might have to make long-term changes in the types of activities you engage in, and the way you perform them.
Another treatment involves icing in the form of ice packs and/or ice massages to the afflicted area for 20-minute periods three-four times/day. The use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen, naproxen or aspirin can also help to relieve pain and swelling.
Sometimes the tendonitis can be so serious that the aid of a physical therapist is necessary and this usually happens when a person fails to curtail the inflammatory activity. In these situations the PT will provide such specialized treatments as ultrasound, friction massage and water therapy, and the PT might also initiate a rehab regime such that you can regain strength, motion and function in the affected joint.
Final thought: Don’t take tendonitis lightly. Be proactive by consulting with a physician if your symptoms fail to dissipate. And if you are diagnosed with tendonitis, follow your rehab instructions faithfully.
Cutting corners with respect to rest only prolongs––if not exacerbates––this painful affliction.