A tendon, by definition, is a flexible but strong band of fibrous tissue that attaches muscle to bone. The tendons in your body transmit the force from a muscle contraction to a bone, which creates movement. Tendonitis, literally means “inflamed tendon” and is commonly treated in Physical Therapy practice. The most prevalent forms of tendonitis are achilles tendonitis or posterior tibialis tendonitis in the foot, lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow) or medial epicondyitis (golfer’s elbow) at the elbow, rotator cuff tendonitis at the shoulder, and patellar tendonitis (jumper’s knee) at the knee. However, other tendons can also be affected.
Typically, tendonitis develops as a result of overuse or inadequate recovery of a muscle/tendon that is placed under stress. Symptoms usually include tenderness directly over the tendon, swelling, and pain with activity or use of the muscle. Often times, this condition will persist for months or even years if it is not managed in the proper way. In most cases, the earlier this problem is addressed, the better the outcome.
So what is the best way to manage this problem?
- Do not ignore early symptoms! If you are a runner consistently experiencing heel pain, or a tennis player that is consistently experiencing elbow pain, interpret that pain as a message from your body that your heel or elbow needs a break! Every time you feel that pain you are feeding the inflammatory process.
- Rest and allow your body to heal. If you are able to find an activity that does not aggravate your symptoms, go for it. Otherwise, eliminate activities that reproduce or worsen the pain.
- Ice will often help control and decrease inflammation, especially right after an aggravating activity. Use ice for about 15-20 minutes on the area of discomfort as needed.
- Short term use of NSAIDs, such as Ibuprofen and Aspirin, can also help address inflammation. However, studies have shown this to have greatest benefit in acute situations (less than 10 days) and long term use for management of tendon problems is not recommended.
- Think twice about that Cortisone injection as a primary method of management. Although this treatment option can often provide short term relief, in many cases symptoms will return within a year.
- See a Physical Therapist! We can assess the severity of your condition and help you to initiate effective strategies to facilitate the healing process. In addition, we provide treatments that can manage symptoms when appropriate. We will also provide you with stretching and strengthening recommendations specific to your affected body region that will aid your recovery and help to prevent recurrence.
Direct access to Physical Therapy makes this an easy solution. If you find yourself trying to ignore a lingering problem that is affecting your ability to participate in activities you would otherwise be doing, it’s worth a consult. There may be some simple solutions and treatments that would help you!
Kali Spoto LaRue, DPT, OCS