A tendon is a tough yet flexible band of fibrous tissue. The tendon is the structure in your body that connects your muscles to the bones. Tendons come in many shapes and sizes. Some are very small, like the ones that cause movements of your fingers, and some are much larger, such as your Achilles tendon in your heel. When functioning normally, these tendons glide easily and smoothly as the muscle contracts.
What is tendonitis?
Sometimes the tendons become inflamed for a variety of reasons, and the action of pulling the muscle becomes irritating. If the normal smooth gliding motion of your tendon is impaired, the tendon will become inflamed and movement will become painful. This is called tendonitis, and literally means inflammation of the tendon.
What causes tendonitis?
The most common cause of tendonitis is overuse. Commonly, individuals begin an exercise program, or increase their level of exercise, and begin to experience symptoms of tendonitis. The tendon is unaccustomed to the new level of demand, and this overuse will cause an inflammation and tendonitis.
Another common cause of symptoms of tendonitis is due to age-related changes of the tendon. As people age, the tendons loose their elasticity and ability to glide as smoothly as they used to. With increasing age, individuals are more prone to developing symptoms of tendonitis. The cause of these age-related changes is not entirely understood, but may be due to changes in the blood vessels that supply nutrition to the tendons.
Sometimes, there is an anatomical cause for tendonitis. If the tendon does not have a smooth path to glide along, it will be more likely to become irritated and inflamed.
Tendonitis is almost always diagnosed on physical examination. Findings consistent with tendonitis include:
Tenderness directly over the tendon
Pain with movement of muscles and tendons
Swelling in the area of pain
Studies such as x-rays and MRIs are not usually needed to make the diagnosis of tendonitis, however if symptoms persist they may help clarify the cause of pain. Examples of tendonitis’ are:
Wrist tendonitis is a common problem that can cause pain and swelling around the wrist. Wrist tendonitis is due to inflammation of the tendon sheath. It is commonly found in typists and labour intensive jobs.
Achilles tendonitis causes pain and swelling in the back of the heel. Understanding this common problem can help with treatment and help to avoid serious complications such as Achilles tendon rupture. This is very common in racket sports such as squash.
Patellar (Kneecap) Tendonitis
Patellar tendonitis, or inflammation of the patellar tendon, is a condition often called Jumper’s Knee. Treatment of patellar tendonitis usually consists of rest and anti-inflammatory medication. Common in those who jog/ run.
Rotator Cuff Tendonitis
Many patients who have shoulder pain are suffering due to bursitis or rotator cuff tendonitis; shoulder position and posture play a large part in longstanding pain, with tasks such as driving stretching the joints and muscles for long periods.