Tendonitis: How to Recognize It, How We Can Treat It

by Princeton Orthopaedic Associates

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Tendonitis: How to Recognize It, How We Can Treat It

by Princeton Orthopaedic Associates

A sore shoulder, a sore elbow, a sore knee — they all could have a common ailment. It’s called tendonitis, and it can affect the overused or injured joints of patients of any age. It’s most common in athletes and those with active lifestyles — those who use these joints often and with great effort. 

The good news is, tendonitis is very treatable, often at home. However, it’s essential to diagnose and treat tendonitis quickly and adequately so it doesn’t lead to long-term damage. Princeton Orthopaedic Associates can use x-rays and digital imaging to determine whether your joint pain is caused by tendonitis or something more serious. 

What Is Tendonitis?

Tendonitis is the inflammation of the tissue that connects muscle to bone. It tends to happen around joints in the body, particularly those most used, such as the shoulder, knee, and elbow. Patients with tendonitis experience pain, tenderness, and mild swelling in the area of the damaged tendon. 

Tendonitis can be caused by injury, but the leading cause is repetitive or excessive motion that puts strain on the tendon. Awkward positions, forceful exertion, or frequent overhead reaches can also cause tendonitis. 

Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnosis of tendonitis usually can be done by a physical examination alone. However, your doctor may request x-rays or other digital imaging to confirm the diagnosis. The imaging can also ensure there aren’t other issues causing your pain, such as a tear to a tendon or ligament, a bone spur, or other injuries. 

The good news is, you can often treat tendonitis at home. Mild cases can be treated simply by resting the joint, using over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications, and icing the joint regularly. If these methods don’t work, corticosteroid injections can reduce the inflammation and alleviate the pain while the joint rests. 

Some patients may benefit from physical therapy as well. A physical therapist can provide movements and exercises to strengthen the tendon while providing alternative movement that reduces stress on the tissue. 

Your doctor may use outpatient treatments to reduce inflammation and alleviate pain in more severe cases. One such method is dry-needling, where a needle creates small holes in the tendon and encourages healing. 

In chronic tendonitis cases, scar tissue may build up in and around the tendon. Ultrasonic treatment may be used to combat this. A small incision is made, and a device is inserted to remove scar tissue using ultrasonic waves. 

Surgery usually isn’t necessary unless there is severe damage to the tendon, such as a tear in the tendon or if the tendon has torn away from the bone. Surgery types will depend on the location of the tendonitis. Recovery can take several weeks to several months and likely will require physical therapy. 

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