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Tendonitis

Introduction

Tendonitis is a common sports injury, which you could have guessed by just looking at the list of colloquial names given to condition over the years such as tennis elbow, jumper’s knee and swimmer’s shoulder. However, it is becoming more common among those who engage in other repetitive activities too like typing (or video games). It is uncomfortable and can painful. If left untreated it may lead to more serious injury but for the most part, a bit of rest, ice and ibuprofen will have you jumping, swimming and COD-ing again in no time.

What is a Tendon?

Tendons are made out of tough but flexible fibers and along with helping with movement they help provide stability. They help your body move by connecting your muscles to your bones. When a muscle contracts it pulls on a tendon that in turn pulls on a bone causing it to move.

What is Tendonitis?

Tendonitis is a condition where the tendon or the sheath that covers the tendon gets inflamed and swollen. It can mean that movement becomes uncomfortable or painful. You have loads of tendons in your body but there are a few that are particularly prone to getting tendonitis due to repetitive or overuse:

  • Wrist (too many suggestive jokes, too little time)
  • Achilles (back of the heel)
  • Knee (patella)
  • Elbow
  • Shoulder (rotator cuff)

Sometimes tendonitis can be caused by acute or sudden injuries but it is more commonly associated with overuse or repetitive use. Sports or activities like typing, tennis and golf where you consistently perform the same movement can irritate a tendon. In a small number of cases the tendon becomes inflamed as the area it is moving over is not smooth.

Symptoms

The symptoms of tendonitis are pretty easy to diagnose

  • Tenderness and soreness over the tendon
  • Swelling in the tendon
  • Pain when moving the affected area or performing the task that has caused the problem
  • A lump on the tendon
  • If you put your fingers on the tendon you may feel it kind of grate as it moves

Treatment

Most tendonitis responds pretty well to treatment you can do yourself:

  • Rest
    • This means minimizing the use of the affected area so that you allow the tendon to heal
    • Use of a brace or splint to help provide extra support
    • Change in activity like a switch to swimming over running for a week or two
    • It is important to rest until the tendon feels better. Continued tendonitis can lead to more serious issues such as a ruptured tendon which requires surgery to fix
  • Ice
    • This will help to reduce the swelling and inflammation
    • Remember not to apply an ice pack directly to the skin use a tea towel or something in between
  • Anti-inflammatory
    • Anti-inflammatory medicines like ibuprofen will help to reduce the swelling and relieve some of the pain
    • Make sure that you don’t use the pain killers to mask the pain however and allow yourself to do too much on the injury
  • Physiotherapy
    • If your tendonitis is particularly bad or recurring it may be worth seeing a physiotherapist
    • They will likely give you some exercises to help you stretch and strengthen the area
  • Proper technique
    • It’s important to learn the proper technique of the sports and activities you are doing, such as learning the proper way to swing a golf club. Bad technique can put unnecessary strain on the body and lead to injuries and conditions like tendonitis

Though many cases of tendonitis will heal fine following the above advice some may need to be seen by the doctor. The doctor may take x-rays to check there isn’t something else wrong.

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