Tendinitis - What You Should Know

Pain and Tenderness Near a Joint

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What Are Tendons?

A tendon is a strong, flexible fibrous cord that attaches muscle to bone. Tendons are different than ligaments. While tendons connect muscle to bone, ligaments connect bone to bone at a joint. Tendons are able to carry tremendous loads, much like a steel cable. Both tendons and ligaments are considered soft tissue.

What Is Tendinitis?

Tendinitis, sometimes spelled tendonitis, refers to inflammation of one or more tendons.

What Can Cause Tendinitis?

Tendinitis can be caused by severe injury but more often it is caused by repetitive minor injuries to the affected area. In certain conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, gout, psoriatic arthritis, thyroid disease or diabetes, tendinitis can occur without any trauma.

Who Can Develop Tendinitis?

People whose work requires repetitive motion are more likely to develop tendinitis. Examples include people who are gardeners, carpenters, athletes, or typists. People with poor posture or improper body mechanics could be at higher risk for developing tendinitis, too.

Tendinitis is more common in adults, especially those 40 years of age or older (tendons lose elasticity as they age), but anyone can develop tendinitis.

What Are the Symptoms of Tendinitis?

Tendinitis causes pain and tenderness in the area just outside of a joint. There also can be loss of motion in the joint near the affected tendon.

Most commonly the shoulder, elbow, wrist, base of thumb, hip, knee and ankle are affected.

How Is Tendinitis Diagnosed?

Most forms of tendinitis can be diagnosed following by a medical history and physical examination. Your doctor may use special physical exam maneuvers to determine which tendon is involved.

The anesthetic-injection test can be useful for confirming the diagnosis of tendinitis. A small amount of an anesthetic agent like lidocaine is injected into the affected area. If there is immediate pain relief, that helps confirm the diagnosis of tendinitis. MRIs or ultrasound also can be used to look for tendinitis and tendon tears.

How Is Tendinitis Treated?

The goal of treatment is to treat the inflammation. Rest, compression, elevation, and anti-inflammatory medications are part of the initial treatment regimen. Ultrasound, massage, gentle stretching and strengthening exercises, use of protective equipment such as orthotics or splints all may be used over time. A corticosteroid injection into the affected area sometimes is considered if all else fails. A partial or completely torn tendon may require surgery.


Questions and Answers About Bursitis and Tendinitis. NIAMS. April 2007.

Tendonitis. American College of Rheumatology. August 2009.

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