Tendons are vital structures that connect muscle to bone to help facilitate movement, but like any soft tissue, overuse can lead to injury. When overuse leads to irritation or inflammation in the tendon, you may suffer from symptoms of tendonitis. Tendonitis is a common soft tissue injury whose symptoms can range from mildly irritating to functionally debilitating, and the condition causes 70,000 people to miss work each year. We explain how physical therapy can help treat tendonitis and prevent its return in this blog.
Where Does Tendonitis Develop?
You have tendons all over your body, so it stands to reason that tendonitis can develop in a number of different areas. While the condition can affect any tendon, it’s most common in parts of your body that are prone to repetitive motion and overuse. For these reasons, the most common areas that are affected by tendonitis are:
It is possible that tendonitis can develop as a result of an acute injury, more often than not it is caused by repetitive strain and overuse. Of the areas listed above, we commonly treat recreational golfers and tennis players for elbow tendonitis, swimmers and baseball players for shoulder tendonitis, runners for knee, hip and ankle injuries, and office workers and gamers for thumb tendonitis. Manual laborers who partake in repetitive actions that strain any of the above areas are also susceptible to tendonitis. Needless to say, the condition can affect a wide variety of patients.
Symptoms of tendonitis can vary a little based on the location, but common symptoms include pain, pain with movement, tenderness, swelling and generalized weakness in the area.
Treating Tendonitis With Physical Therapy
Like a number of soft tissue conditions, tendonitis responds well to conservative care and rest. For more mild cases, patients may be able to calm symptoms by practicing RICE, which stands for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. Rest and ice tend to help calm inflammation, while compression and elevation can help to reduce swelling and improve joint mobility. However, once symptoms resolve, it’s important to change your daily habits or work to strengthen the affected area so you don’t have a recurrence of tendonitis.
For more moderate or severe cases, or for those that return after treating them with RICE, physical therapy can be the perfect option. Physical therapy helps by strengthening the tendon and the nearby soft tissues that help to disperse stress in the area. Aside from strengthening the tendon, physical therapists can also perform some manual therapy exercises to help improve functional ability and flexibility in the affected area.
Physical therapists can also make all the difference for patients suffering from tendonitis because of the level of patient education they can provide. A patient may understand that their golf game or running habits are contributing to their tendonitis, but they may not realize that issues with their form could be exacerbating the problem. We have ways of analyzing your form to spot functional deficits and biomechanical issues that could be putting undue stress on your tendon and causing tendonitis to develop. By explaining how forces affect the tendon and what you can do to alter your form, we can help patients cure their tendonitis and prevent recurrences in as little as one appointment.