Tendonitis (sometimes spelled tendinitis) is an inflammation of a tendon, which is the thick fibrous cord that connects muscles to bones. Tendons are in action every time muscles contract and bones move. Tendonitis may occur anywhere in your body, but it most commonly appears in the knees, shoulders, wrists, and heels. Tendonitis is often the result of overuse, such as repetitive movements at work.
Tendonitis can cause significant pain and disability, although it often fades away after a few weeks, particularly if some helpful home remedies and lifestyle changes are applied. However, in some cases, tendonitis can become chronic and requires medical attention. Read on to learn how to get rid of tendonitis.
How to Relieve Tendonitis Pain Quickly
Elevate the joint above your heart to prevent swelling. This is important if your knee or ankle is hurting.
Wrap the affected area in a bandage to compress it and prevent swelling. Use an ACE bandage or other athletic compression band to wrap the area when you are not icing.
Ice the painful area for 20 minutes several times a day. Wait at least 40 minutes for your tendons to warm back up before reapplying ice. This prevents swelling and provide tendonitis relief.
Stretch daily, especially before exercising. Flexible, strong muscles are less likely to lead to tendonitis. Always stretch and warm-up before working out, and stretch on off-days.
Ease into exercise routines to prevent recurring injuries. Start exercising slowly, trusting your body. Most tendonitis comes when people work out too hard or push themselves while still untrained or prepared.
Gently stretch and move the joint to prevent stiffness. You do not want to rest completely. Go for a walk, or extend and contract the joint 15-20 times in the morning and afternoon. Move through the full range of motion.
Use warm pads, baths, or treatments 48 hours after the injury. Ice is less effective after two days. Use a heat treatment to easy pain and relax your muscles.
Take pain medication. Consume pain relievers for severe discomfort. These medications may help relieve tendonitis pain and swelling.
- Ibuprofen and naproxen sodium may also help alleviate some of the swelling.
- Take over the counter pain relievers such as aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen sodium or acetaminophen.
How to Get Rid of Tendonitis
Identify potential symptoms. Tendonitis has many different symptoms that can range from mild to severe. Identifying potential symptoms that you have can help you get rid of tendonitis as soon as possible.
- You may experience pain along the tendon or joint that becomes more severe with activity.
- You may experience pain and stiffness along your tendon or joint, especially in the morning.
- You may experience severe pain the day following exercise or strenuous activity.
- Your tendons may feel noticeably thicker.
- You may experience mild swelling.
Stop overusing the tendon/muscle. Repetitive motions put stress on the tendons, which creates micro-tears and localized inflammation. Inflamed tendons can be caused by a sudden injury, but they’re usually triggered by small, repetitive movements over the course of many days, weeks or months. As such, identify what action is creating the problem and either take a break from it (at least a few days) or modify the movement somehow.
If the tendonitis is work related, then talk to your employer about temporarily switching to a different activity. If your problem is exercise related, then you may be working out too aggressively or with improper form — consult with a personal trainer.
- Acute tendonitis will usually heal itself if you give it a chance to rest, but if you don’t, it can become a chronic problem that’s much more difficult to treat.
Rest the affected area. Immobility and doing lower-impact activities can help you get rid of tendonitis. Give your body a chance to rest the area completely for a while.
- If you do high-impact activities such as running or tennis, switch to lower-impact options. You can try biking, walking, or swimming to stay active while giving your affected tendon a rest.
- Begin gently moving the affected area if you take a few days of full rest to help prevent stiffness.
Apply some ice to the inflamed tendon. Tendonitis pain is primarily due to inflammation, which is an attempt by the body to heal and protect the injured tissue. However, the body’s inflammatory response is usually too much and actually contributes to the problem, so controlling the inflammation is key to reducing the symptoms.
Apply an icepack to your inflamed tendon. This can help you get rid of tendonitis. Apply cold therapy every few hours until the pain and inflammation subside.
- You can freeze a plastic foam cup full of water to gently massage the affected area.
- You can take a slush bath by mixing ice and water in a bathtub. Soak the area or your entire body for up to 20 minutes.
- You can use an ice pack as often as necessary for 20 minutes at a time.
- While you’re icing the inflamed tendon, elevate the area and compress it by tying a Tensor or Ace bandage around the area — both techniques more efficiently combat inflammation.
- Don’t forget to wrap ice up in a thin cloth before your apply it, as it will prevent negative reactions such as ice burn or frostbite.
Lightly stretch the inflamed tendon. Mild-to-moderate tendonitis and muscle strains often respond well to stretching because it relieves muscle tension, promotes circulation and increases flexibility and range of motion. While stretching, use slow, steady movements and hold the positions for 20-30 seconds; repeat 3-5x daily, especially before and after intense activity.
- Keep in mind that the pain of tendonitis is usually worse at night and after movement or activity.
Wear a supportive brace. If the tendonitis involves your knee, elbow or wrist, then consider wearing a flexible neoprene sleeve or more supportive nylon/Velcro brace in order to help protect the area and limit movement. Wearing a supportive brace also helps remind you to take it easy and not overdo it while at work or in the gym.
- In addition to wearing a supportive brace, examine the ergonomics of your work area and make sure it suits your size and body type. If needed, adjust your chair, keyboard and desktop to relieve excessive stress on your joints and tendons.
- Keep in mind that complete immobility of an inflamed area is not recommended either because tendons, muscles and related joints need some movement to get consistent blood circulation in order to heal properly.
Seeking Medical Treatment for Tendonitis
Consult with your doctor. If you can’t get rid of tendonitis with home treatments or it is affecting your daily life, see your doctor for a physical examination. Tendonitis is very common and very treatable, and getting a medical diagnosis early can help you get proper treatment.
Your doctor will check for signs of tendonitis once you’ve described your symptoms. Your doctor will assess the severity of your tendonitis, sometimes using diagnostic equipment such as ultrasound or MRI, and give you recommendations. For less serious situations, rehabilitation and/or steroid injections are often more appropriate.
- Your doctor may check for swelling along the tendon or in the corresponding area.
- Your doctor may look or feel for bony spurs along your elbow, shoulder, knee or heel.
- Your doctor may feel along your tendon and ask you what the point of maximum tenderness is.
- Your doctor may also test the range of motion. In particular, she’ll see if you have a decreased ability to flex your joint.
If your tendonitis is severe, your doctor may prescribe additional, more involved treatments such as injections, surgery, or physical therapy. These can provide some pain relief and heal the condition.
If the tendon has torn away from the bone (ruptured), then a referral to an orthopedic surgeon for surgical repair will be necessary.
- Most surgeries for severe tendonitis is performed arthroscopically, by inserting a small camera and miniature instruments through small incisions close to joints.
- For chronic tendonitis, focused aspiration of scar tissue (FAST) is a minimally invasive surgery that removes scar tissue from the tendon without irritating the healthy tissue.
Consider cortisone injections in the affected area. If your tendonitis is especially severe, your doctor may consider cortisone injections. Be aware this isn’t a common treatment and could rupture your tendon.
- Corticosteroids may decrease inflammation and help you get rid of tendonitis.
- Doctors do not recommend cortisone injections for chronic tendonitis, which is a case of tendonitis that last over three months.
Consider physical therapy. If your tendonitis is a chronic condition, but not particularly serious, then consider seeing a physical therapist. A physical therapist will show you specific and tailored stretches and strengthening exercises for your affected tendon and surrounding musculature.
For example, eccentric strengthening — which involves contraction of a muscle/tendon while it’s lengthening — is effective in treating chronic tendonitis. Physical therapy is usually required 2-3 times per week for 4-8 weeks to positively impact chronic tendonitis.
- Physical therapists can also treat inflamed tendons with therapeutic ultrasound or micro-current, both proven to help relieve inflammation and stimulate healing.
- Some physical therapists (and other medical professionals) use low-energy light waves (infrared) to decrease inflammation and pain in mild-to-moderate musculoskeletal injuries.
Ask about a FAST operation on the affected area. If you can’t get rid of tendonitis after six months of nonsurgical treatment, your doctor and you should consider surgery. The minimally invasive FAST procedure may help fully treat the condition.
- FAST, or focused aspiration of scar tissue, that uses ultrasound and small instruments to remove tendon scar tissue.
- FAST has the same effect as an open surgery but doesn’t require hospitalization.
- The recovery time for fast is generally 1-2 months.
- Do not apply ice directly to skin. Use a cloth to protect against ice burns.
- Do not wrap the injured area too tightly; you may cut off circulation.
- Quit smoking because it impairs blood circulation, resulting in oxygen and nutrient deprivation to muscles, tendons and other tissues.
- It’s easier to avoid tendonitis than to treat it. Don’t overdue it if you are new to an exercise or task at work.
- Light exercise can help reduce stiffness associated with inactivity of the injured area.
- If an exercise / activity causes you muscle or tendon pain, then try something else to keep fit. Cross-training with different activities helps prevent tendonitis due to repetition.
- Platelet rich plasma treatment, or PRP, is an experimental treatment that may help chronic tendonitis. However, studies do not show much promise for this treatment, so it is rarely used.