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Tendinitis

Definition

Tendinitis is inflammation, irritation, and swelling of a tendon. This is the fibrous structure that joins muscle to bone. In many cases, tendinosis (tendon degeneration) is also present.

Alternative Names

Calcific tendinitis; Bicipital tendinitis

Causes

Tendinitis can occur as a result of injury or overuse. It also can occur with aging as the tendon loses elasticity. Body-wide (systemic) diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis or diabetes, can also lead to tendinitis.

Tendinitis can occur in any tendon. Commonly affected sites include the:

Symptoms

  • Pain and tenderness along a tendon, usually near a joint
  • Pain at night
  • Pain that is worse with movement or activity

Exams and Tests

The doctor will perform a physical exam. During the exam, the doctor will look for signs of pain and tenderness when the muscle attached to the tendon is moved in certain ways. There are specific tests for specific tendons.

The tendon can be inflamed, and the skin over it may be warm and red.

Treatment

The goal of treatment is to relieve pain and reduce inflammation.

The doctor will recommend resting the affected tendon to help it recover. This may be done using a splint or a removable brace. Applying heat or cold to the affected area can help.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs), such as aspirin or ibuprofen, can also reduce both pain and inflammation. Steroid injections into the tendon sheath can also be very useful for controlling pain.

The doctor may also suggest physical therapy to stretch and strengthen the muscle and tendon. This can restore the tendon's ability to function properly, improve healing, and prevent future injury.

In rare cases, surgery is needed to remove the inflamed tissue from around the tendon.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Symptoms improve with treatment and rest. If the injury is caused by overuse, a change in work habits may be needed to prevent the problem from coming back.

Possible Complications

  • Long-term inflammation raises the risk of further injury, such as rupture
  • Tendinitis symptoms return

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call for an appointment with your health care provider if symptoms of tendinitis occur.

Prevention

  • Avoid repetitive motions and overuse of the arms and legs.
  • Keep all your muscles strong and flexible.
  • Warm up by exercising at a relaxed pace before doing vigorous activity.

References

Drezner JA, Harmon KG, O'Kane JW. Sports medicine. In: Rakel RE, ed. Textbook of Family Medicine. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 29.

Jevremovic T, Asem K, Bonin M, et al. Overview of sport-specific injuries. In: Miller MD, Thompson SR, eds. DeLee and Drez's Orthopaedic Sports Medicine. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2014:chap 12.


Review Date: 8/17/2014
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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