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Recognizing the Signs of Tendonitis

Athletes are notorious for getting tendonitis, because they repeat certain motions over and over again in their sport. Each sport comes with risks to specific body parts, and when those body parts get tendonitis, it’s so prevalent that the condition is often named for the sport. 

For example, tennis players often suffer from tendonitis in their elbow, which is called tennis elbow. Baseball pitchers, who may hurl the ball 100 times per game, can develop pitcher’s shoulder (which can lead to a rotator cuff tear). Competitive swimmers who reach and pull time and again with their shoulders get swimmer’s shoulder. You get the picture.

But you don’t have to be an athlete to get tendonitis. It can happen to anyone who’s job requires repetitive movement of a particular joint, involves strong vibrations, or causes overexertion — such as lifting and loading boxes, using a jackhammer, or constantly reaching overhead. 

Tendonitis is also a fairly common condition of aging. People over 40 are especially vulnerable to weakened tissues, including tendons, which can lead to tendonitis. Your joints are susceptible to multiple types of injuries, so how can you tell if you have tendonitis or something else?

At The Woodlands Sports Medicine Centre, in The Woodlands, Texas, our team of experienced orthopedic surgeons can diagnose and treat your tendonitis no matter which type you have — golfer’s elbow, swimmer's shoulder, jumper’s knee, or the like. Here’s what you need to know.

Tendonitis explained

Have you ever wondered how your soft, flexible muscles attach to your hard bones? You have your tendons to thank for that connection. Tendons are thick, fibrous bands or cords of tissue that help form your joints where bone and muscle meet. 

When your tendons become irritated or inflamed, you get tendonitis. It’s possible for tendonitis to occur in any joint, but it’s most common in the elbow, knee, shoulder, or ankle. 

As we mentioned, any job or hobby that puts continual stress on a particular tendon can lead to tendonitis, but sports are the primary culprit. That’s why learning and executing the proper technique for your sport’s movements is crucial. If your arm swing in golf or tennis is off by a degree or two, tendonitis is likely. 

What tendonitis feels like

The symptoms of tendonitis can feel very similar to other joint conditions like osteoarthritis and bursitis. All three include:

Despite the overlap of symptoms, what’s going on inside your joint is very different. 

Osteoarthritis is a wearing down of your cartilage and an eventual rubbing of bone on bone in your joint. Bursitis is inflammation of your bursa sac, the fluid-filled cushion in your joint.

But tendonitis involves your tendon alone. The only way to truly know for sure which condition you have is to come see us. We use tests like X-rays and MRIs to pinpoint your injury and make an accurate diagnosis. And this is important because the treatments for these conditions are different. 

Treating tendonitis

The good news is that tendonitis typically responds very well to simple treatments such as resting the joint, using ice to reduce inflammation, compressing the joint with an elastic wrap, and keeping the joint elevated. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen also relieve pain and swelling. 

When you need a little extra help overcoming your symptoms, our team can help you manage your pain. We may recommend corticosteroid injections that go directly to the site of injury and give you enough pain relief so you can participate in physical therapy.

And physical therapy is one of the most important steps in your treatment and recovery. In order to restore full function and prevent further injury, you need to strengthen the supportive muscular structure. 

If you suspect you have tendonitis in any of your joints, don’t delay coming in for a diagnosis and treatment. If you ignore tendonitis, it can easily progress and eventually cause your affected tendon to rupture, which leads to more severe pain, immobility, and usually surgery.

For more information on tendonitis or any other joint injury, call or click to make an appointment with one of our specialists at The Woodlands Sports Medicine Centre.

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