Whether it’s called tennis elbow, golf elbow, runner’s knee, or it goes by any other name, tendonitis can be extremely painful. The good news is that it is usually not serious, and also that it can be prevented. Here are a few of the reasons why this problem occurs, some of the ways it’s treated, and some of the things you can do to avoid having to deal with this issue.
How Does Tendonitis Develop?
Your tendons are the tissues that connect your bones with your muscles. When you move your arm or leg, you do so through contraction of the muscles. This leads to a reaction in the tendon that makes the bone move.1
Placing too much stress on our tendons can lead to inflammation and tiny tears which, in turn, can lead to a great deal of pain. While tendonitis will usually go away on its own after rest and treatment, it can turn chronic if you continue to put stress on the affected area.
For example, runners often develop tendonitis due to the repetitive stress they place on their legs and feet. Avid golfers can develop it in an elbow, while basketball players can get it in their knees. If you’re a “weekend warrior,” you can get tendonitis by simply overdoing it.
The motions associated with a specific sport are often unnatural, like the act of throwing a baseball. The body simply wasn’t designed to do it on a regular basis. What makes matters worse is that some of us don’t use the proper technique or body mechanics when we’re active. This could mean swinging a golf club incorrectly or shooting a basketball in an odd fashion. This places even more stress on our tendons, putting us at a higher risk of developing tendonitis as a result.
But you don’t have to be an athlete. Simply painting your walls or ceiling can lead to tendonitis, as can working at a computer for several hours at a time.
Talking to Your Doctor
Again, most cases of tendonitis will usually clear up on their own within a week or two with rest. Wrap some ice in a towel and apply it to the problem area for 10-15 minutes at a time several times a day. Over-the-counter pain relieving medications should be sufficient to alleviate any discomfort.
But if you find that you can’t perform even simple tasks, such as putting on a shirt or getting up and down your stairs, that means you could have a serious problem, and you’ll need to get medical help. You could have actually ruptured a tendon, or you might have a more serious underlying issue that needs to be addressed as soon as possible.
There are a lot of things that you can do to reduce the chances that you’ll develop tendonitis. For example, if you work out on a regular basis, make sure you start gradually and take the time to stretch thoroughly. Stretching will help reduce trauma on your tendons and will also help increase your range of motion. You not only need to stretch before your workout, but afterward as well.
In addition, you need to make sure you use the proper technique so that you don’t put an undue amount of stress on the tendons. If you’re starting to play a new sport, train first so that you can build up strength and flexibility – particularly in the specific muscles that you’ll be using most often. Take some lessons before you start playing golf or tennis, or before you start using a new piece of exercise equipment.
Another way to prevent tendonitis is by changing up any activities that might be causing you discomfort. For example, if jogging is causing you pain, try mixing in a lower-impact exercise periodically, such as swimming or riding a stationary bike.2
Even if you’re not an athlete, however, you can do some things to lower your risk of developing tendonitis through repetitive work motions, such as typing on a computer all day. Make sure your keyboard, desktop, and chair are adjusted properly for your height and arm length.
Avoiding Specific Types of Tendonitis
One of the more common forms of tendonitis affects the biceps muscle, but there are specific exercises you can perform in order to lower your risk and help alleviate symptoms.3 Of course, if you have developed a severe bout of tendonitis, you need to talk to your doctor first to make sure you don’t make the problem worse.
The biceps stretch involves standing about six inches away from a wall. Raise the injured arm with your palm down and the touch the wall with the thumb of the hand, making sure the arm is straight. Turn your body away from the arm until you feel a stretching sensation in the biceps, and then hold that position for about 15 seconds. Rest for a minute or so and then repeat twice.
You could also try the reclining external rotation exercise. Lie down on the opposite side of the injury, with the non-injured arm extended. Rest your head against this arm and then bend your knees. Next, bend the elbow of the arm with tendonitis at a 90-degree angle. Keep your palm facing your body, and then raise the forearm parallel to the ground. Gradually lower the arm and then repeat this motion 15 times.
Another exercise is called the “biceps curl.” Grab a 5-8 pound weight. If you don’t have one, you can use a hammer or a can of vegetables. Stand straight and keep the elbow of the injured arm next to your body. Slowly raise your palm toward your shoulder, keeping the elbow bent while it is still tucked close to your body. Repeat anywhere from 8-12 times.
Again, the symptoms of tendonitis will typically dissipate after about a week or two. But if they don’t, seek medical help. If you don’t address the problem, it could worsen to the point where permanent damage occurs.
1.”The Best Ways To Treat, Prevent Tendonitis – Health Encyclopedia – University Of Rochester Medical Center”. Urmc.rochester.edu. N.p., 2017. Web. 16 May 2017.
2.”Tendinitis Prevention – Mayo Clinic”. Mayo Clinic. N.p., 2017. Web. 16 May 2017.
3.”Gentle Exercises To Relieve Biceps Tendonitis Pain”. Healthline. N.p., 2017. Web. 16 May 2017.