Tendonitis is often associated with the hand, but this condition can occur anywhere in the body where tendons connect muscles to bones. Understanding the different types of tendonitis helps you know whether you might be dealing with this condition so you can ask the right questions when you speak to healthcare professionals. If you’re experiencing any of the pain or symptoms described below, talk to your doctor about options for treating your tendonitis.

What Is Tendonitis?

Tendonitis is a condition that is caused by damage to a tendon. Tendons are tissue that connect muscle and bone, causing the bone and joints to move appropriately when your muscles contract. Overuse, improper use and aging can all lead to wear and tear on these tendons, which causes inflammation, tenderness and pain. In more severe cases, tendonitis can even result in a lack of functionality of the area in question, reducing your range of motion, causing numbness or causing you to be unable to pick up or hold things.

Types of Tendonitis

Because tendons are located throughout the body, various types of tendonitis can occur.

  • Elbow Tendonitis. This is commonly referred to as tennis elbow, but you don’t have to play tennis or any sport to experience it. Tennis players do have some risk for this injury, though, because swinging a tennis racket is a repetitive motion that requires this tendon to work. Elbow tendonitis causes damage or inflammation to the tendon on the outside of your elbow, though it can cause pain at that location or radiating in other parts of your arm.
  • Achilles Tendonitis. This occurs when the tendon connecting the heel bone to your calf muscles is damaged or inflamed. People who run and jump regularly are at more risk, but those who don’t exercise regularly can injure the tendon with sudden regular activity, especially if they don’t work up to it, stretch correctly or use proper form.
  • Rotator cuff Tendonitis. Four tendons for each side help keep shoulder muscles attached to socket bones and damage to these tendons can cause rotator cuff pain. Shoveling snow, baseball and basketball are just some activities that can increase the risk for this type of injury.
  • Patellar Tendonitis. The patellar tendon connects your shin bone to your kneecap, so it gets put through its paces every time you stand, sit or walk. While any overuse can injure this tendon, jumping is especially hard on it. It’s a bigger tendon than you find in the hands and other areas, so physical therapy is often used to treat it — in conjunction with surgery or alone.
  • Bicep Tendonitis. If the tendon that connects your bicep to the shoulder is irritated or damaged, it can lead to bicep tendonitis. You may feel a dull ache near your bicep or radiating pain into your shoulder or other parts of your arm.
  • Ankle Tendonitis. Beneath the bump that you can feel on the outside of your ankle is a small tendon called the posterior tibialis tendon. If this becomes irritated or damaged, it can lead to ankle tendonitis. This is a common complaint of people who have flat feet, but long-distance runners can also be at increased risk.
  • DeQuervain’s Tendonitis. This tendon injury occurs in the wrist on the side where your thumb is. You may feel the pain more when you are trying to grip something or form a fist and the pain can radiate down into the thumb or up into the arm. Numerous athletic pursuits can increase the risk of this type of tendonitis, as well as constant typing or texting on a mobile device.

Treatment Options for Tendonitis

The best option for treatment of your tendonitis depends on a number of factors, including where the injury is, how severe the condition is and your own health and age. Minor cases of tendonitis are typically treated with OTC pain medication, such as ibuprofen and RICE. RICE stands for rest, ice, compression and elevation and it can be applied to most minor cases of inflammation to reduce symptoms.

If tendonitis pain or symptoms are not made better by such treatments and don’t go away over time as the tendon heals, other options may be worth exploring. Physical therapy, which includes exercises to treat and strengthen the tendon, can assist with more serious cases. Some patients undergo relaxation therapy in a whirlpool or use an ultrasound machine to reduce the pain in their tendons. If tendonitis is severe and chronic, though, surgery may be the only option that will treat it long term.

Tendonitis surgery is typically performed in an outpatient setting, especially when an area such as the hand is being treated. This means you’re home within a few hours; even if your surgery requires a stay in the hospital, it’s typically only a day or two. In most cases, by about 12 weeks post surgery, you’ll be through any recovery period and experience better functionality and range of motion in the area you had treated.

Dr. Yueh

About Dr. Yueh

Dr. Janet H. Yueh specializes in hand surgery including Trigger Finger, Basal Joint Arthritis, Carpal Tunnel and Tendonitis. Dr. Yueh did her undergraduate work at Harvard University in Cambridge where she graduated magna cum laude. She continued her education at Harvard Medical School where she earned her M.D.