Treatment of Tendonitis

Tendonitis occurs when there is inflammation and irritation of the tendons.  Tendons are the tight, band-like structures that connect muscles to bone.  When the muscle contracts, the tendon is forcefully pulled.  Tendonitis occurs then the tendons become inflamed as a result of injury or overuse.

1
Rest the Injury

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Tendonitis treatment must begin by avoiding aggravating movements. This may mean taking a break from a favorite activity for a period of time, but this is a necessary step to allow the inflamed tendon to heal. It is also recommended in tendonitis treatment to try alternative activities; for example, if you are a runner who is experiencing knee pain due to tendonitis, try incorporating swimming into your workout schedule. Often a splint or brace will be prescribed to help protect the area.

2
Ice the Tendons

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Icing the area of inflammation is an important part of tendonitis treatment. The ice will help to control the inflammation and decrease swelling. By minimizing inflammation and swelling, the tendon can return to its usual state and perform its usual function.

Ice is also an effective pain relieving step that many patients find even more effective than medication taken by mouth.  You can ice frequently, but take frequent breaks to allow the skin to warm again between icing.

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3
Take Anti-Inflammatory Medications

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Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) include a long list of possibilities such as Ibuprofen, Motrin, Naprosyn, Celebrex, and many others. 

Tendonitis treatment can be improved by these medications that will decrease pain and swelling. Be sure to talk to your doctor before starting these medications, as there are possible medical conditions that may prevent you from safely taking NSAIDs.

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4
Consider a Shot of Cortisone

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If the symptoms of tendonitis are persistent, an injection of cortisone may be considered. Cortisone is a powerful anti-inflammatory medication, but instead of being given by mouth, it is injected directly to the site of inflammation. This can be extremely helpful for situations that are not improved with rest.

Not all types of tendonitis can be addressed with cortisone injections! For example, Achilles tendonitis is rarely injected with cortisone because of concerns about possible rupture of the tendon.  Cortisone injections also have possible side effects that you should be aware of before having a shot.

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5
Strengthening and Physical Therapy

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Proper strengthening technique can help you avoid tendonitis by using your muscles in a safe, more efficient manner. For example, patients with rotator cuff tendonitis can learn ways to move the shoulder that will not cause inflammation. Do not begin exercises until the inflammation of tendonitis has subsided!

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6
Take Breaks

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Alternate repetitive tasks with breaks to relieve stress on the tendons. Don't perform one activity continuously for hours at a time. For those with exercise-related tendonitis, try to vary your workouts to relieve the repetitive stress of one exercise activity.

7
Protect the Tendonds

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Some patients who have chronic tendonitis will find relief by protecting the affected area when performing certain activities. For example, wrist splints can be worn while gardening, or Chopat straps (patellar tendonitis) can be worn while playing sports.

Closing Thoughts

The steps listed above are usually adequate tendonitis treatment, and most patients have resolution of their symptoms. Learning to avoid activities that may cause a tendonitis flare-up can also be important. Tendonitis due to underlying conditions such as arthritis and gout are more difficult to treat and recur more frequently. The best management in these situations is to do your best to avoid flare-ups of gouty attacks or arthritic episodes, and to avoid activities which you have learned cause tendonitis.

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