What is it?
A tendon is a cord of tough tissue that connects muscle to bone. The tendon is surrounded by a sheath that protects and lubricates the tendon. This sheath is lined by a layer of cells called the synovium. Occasionally, the tendon will become inflamed (called tendinitis) or the tendon sheath will become inflamed (called tenosynovitis). These conditions together are known as tendinitis and result in pain, stiffness and sometimes swelling. Tendinitis usually is caused by a specific injury or by repetitive overuse, especially when using poor body position. Tendinitis can occur in young athletic people in response to sports injuries and overuse. However, tendons become less flexible with aging and tendinitis is common in middle aged and older adults.
In general, tendinitis can occur suddenly, may last for days, weeks or longer, and then go away. It can, however, occur again in the same place. When properly treated, it general doesn’t result in permanent damage or disability.
What are the effects? Tendons all over the body can become inflamed, including shoulders, elbows, wrists, fingers, hips, back, knees, ankles and feet. The symptoms usually include pain, stiffness and swelling.
How is it diagnosed?
Diagnosing tendinitis is based primarily on a physical exam and a medical history. Your doctor will look for swelling and tenderness in the area that is bothering you. He or she will rule out infection if there is no heat and redness associated with the swelling and tenderness. He or she will ask you about the pain and about what types of activities you are involved in. That is usually enough for the doctor to diagnose tendinitis. If the diagnosis is in question or if the doctor suspects that you may have an underlying inflammatory disease, he or she may run some routine laboratory tests and X-rays.
What are the treatment options?
Tendinitis is common in people who are otherwise healthy. It may go away on its own over time. In most cases, a primary-care physician can treat tendinitis. Some people may need to be referred to a rheumatologist, an orthopaedic surgeon or a physical therapist for treatment. Tendinitis is treated with a conservative approach. Your doctor may recommend a combination of rest, activity modification, heat and cold, medications, and physical therapy.