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Tendonitis: Definition, Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention

Monday, August 16, 2010
By Anne Kramer

We’re all aware of the presence of risks associated with participation in routine activities such as typing on a keyboard. Repetitive stress injuries (RSIs) such as carpal tunnel syndrome are now household terms. But there is one more that tops the American Medical Association’s (AMA) list of most commonly diagnosed RSIs that may not be as familiar to the average person: Tendonitis.

In reality, Tenosynovitis (tendonitis of the wrist) is the single leading cause of discomfort among daily office workers. Not far behind is Epicondylitis (tendonitis of the elbow) or “tennis elbow.”

While doctors know these conditions to be problematic among those who spend their days typing, many of those suffering from these maladies aren’t aware of them. That’s why it’s so important to be informed about what tendonitis is, how to recognize its symptoms, if you find yourself with a case, how to treat it, but ultimately, how to prevent it.


Simply put, tendonitis is the inflammation of the tendons, which connect muscle to bone, at any body part. It is usually the result of repetitive, aggravating motion, but can be caused by acute trauma.


Tendonitis can cause any number of symptoms. The most common are:
  • Pain: If caught in its early stages, pain associated with tendonitis is experienced only when the tendon is put under pressure. Later in the condition’s development however, pain may be constant and nagging, even when the body part is at rest. Some patients have also reported a “burning” sensation around the tendons at varying stages of their condition.
  • Restricted Movement: Progressively worsening restriction of movement around the body part experiencing tendonitis is common. If you suspect you have tendonitis of the wrist for example, you may not be able to fully bend your wrist.
  • Swelling: As your condition worsens, the inflammation of the tendons will become apparent when they turn red, being to swell, and become warm. This is due to an accumulation of fluid and inflammation.

If you suspect you have tendonitis, see your doctor. While home remedies may alleviate pain associated with your particular case, only he/she is qualified to diagnose and treat your ailment.

There are a few ways to address the symptoms of your tendonitis at home.
  1. Stop the activity you suspect to have caused your condition. If you believe typing is at the root of your problem, you may look into speech-recognition software to do your typing for you while you recover.
  2. Brace the area. Fortunately for sufferers of tendonitis of the wrist and elbow, these are common enough problems that braces have been specifically designed to restrict movement in the areas affected.
  3. Use an anti-inflammatory. Use of topical anti-inflammatory medications can help to relieve pain associated with tendonitis by dilating the blood vessels and promoting blood flow.
  4. Rest the tendons causing you discomfort. While the length of time needed depends on the severity of your case, 2 weeks is a good rule of thumb.
  5. Stretch your tendons CAREFULLY. After having rested for several weeks, they will not be as limber as they once were.
  6. Exercise the muscles around your tendons. By re-introducing movement into the area, you can “wake up” your muscles and acclimate them to use once again.

While it’s nice to know you’re able to recognize and begin to treat tendonitis if you see it coming your way, what’s better is being able to prevent it altogether. Perhaps not surprisingly, the means by which you can prevent damage to your tendons are the same as those by which you prevent damage to your muscles.
  • Warm up before you exercise. If you suspect your tendonitis to be caused by a workplace activity such as typing, give yourself a few minutes before you start your day to stretch your wrists and elbows, put them through a full range of motion, and even perform a few repetitions with a light weight.
  • Take frequent breaks. We’ve all heard this one in ergonomic discussions. ESPECIALLY if you’re typing for 8 hours a day, take short breaks every hour.
  • Brace the area. Bracing your wrist or elbow is not good just for treating your tendonitis, but preventing it too. You may feel silly wearing a brace, but it might be the single-most important step you can take in preventing tendonitis.
  • Stretch at the end of your work day. In much the same way you warmed up before work, stretch your wrists and elbows at the end of the day, just for a few minutes.
While tendonitis may be among the leading RSIs in America, there are simple steps you can take to prevent or treat your individual case.

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