Ever notice a twinge of pain in your wrist with push-ups, planks, or mountain climbers? Have you been doing full intensity workouts for the past few weeks and starting to feel some aches and pains? If so, keep reading to see if tendinitis may be plaguing you, and what you should be doing about it.
What Is Tendinitis?
Tendons are tough bands made of strong fibers that attach muscles to bones. And, although small, they’re not immune to injury. Problems involving tendons are typically due to a condition known as tendinitis, aka inflammation and pain in the tendon. Consequently, any repetitive movement, excessive amounts of stress or force, or performing a simple action incorrectly, like picking up a milk jug at an awkward angle, can result in tendinitis. It can also result from a sudden movement that the body is not accustomed to performing.
Next, let’s talk about the relationship between stress, force, and the tendons in our body. Tendons are responsible for transmitting forces between the two structures, allowing the bones to move when a muscle contracts. Naturally, high amounts of stress and force can result in tendon pressure and tension that ultimately causes tiny, microscopic tears. Left untreated, tendinitis can progress into tendinosis.
Some parts of the body are more prone to tendinitis than others. Of course, it depends on how much you’re using the tendon and whether or not it’s overworked and strained. However, tendinitis tends to affect these areas in particular:
- Shoulder tendons - People who paint, deliver mail, or work with their hands are at a higher risk for developing tendinitis in the shoulder, specifically the rotator cuff tendons.
- Elbow tendons - Are you a tennis or golf lover? If so, then you may be more susceptible to developing tendinitis in your elbow, ironically referred to as tennis and golfer’s elbow.
- Hip tendons - Injury to the gluteal and adductor tendons are typically due to activities that require repetitive running and jumping.
- Knee tendons - Almost everyone is at risk for developing tendinitis in the knee. However, runners and cyclists may be more prone to it than others.
- Ankle tendons - Like knee tendon injuries, most active individuals are at risk for problems with the ankle tendons. A common problem that affects the large tendon at the back of the ankle, known as the Achilles Tendon, stems from overuse and muscle weakness.
Who is at Risk for Developing Tendinitis?
Like we briefly touched upon, everyone is at risk for developing tendinitis, since it can affect any tendon in the body. However, some may be more at risk than others, and here’s why.
Tendinitis is an injury that results from repetitive motions, poor body mechanics or positioning, and/or overuse. People who do any type of repetitive movement, like typing or conveyor line work, are at a higher risk for developing tendinitis in the upper body. On the other hand, those who love to run, play basketball, or engage in CrossFit are more likely to suffer from tendinitis in the lower body.
Some Signs That You May Have Tendinitis vs Tendinosis
Tendon injuries tend to trigger pain that stays near the injured area. Unlike trigger points, tendon pain does not radiate or travel to other parts of the body. Other defining characteristics of tendinitis are burning, aching, or shooting sensations. For tendinitis, the priority for treatment is to reduce the stress and inflammation on the injured tendon. While tendinitis usually resolves on its own, recovery can take a few days to weeks.
Tendinosis results from chronic damage that causes the tendon to become thick, fibrous, and scarred. Unfortunately, tendinosis is often accompanied by degeneration that can be viewed on imaging studies. Treatment for tendinosis is lengthy and may last up to six months.
Exercising With Tendon Problems
Tendon injuries are painful, annoying, and downright frustrating. Plus, depending on where the injury occurred, you may be looking at some time away from working out. If that’s the case, then rest assured that there are things that you can still do to stay in shape and earn that #workoutcomplete.
With some modification, you can stretch, do low-impact cardio, and, in most cases, walk without any major concerns. There are plenty of low-intensity workouts, like this core workout routine, that require limited effort from your upper or lower body tendons. Working on your upper and lower body strength and stability through mat exercises is usually a low-impact and safe activity, as long as you avoid overstressing the injured area.
As always, if you’re struggling to find relief, then check in with your trusted healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.
Written for Fitness Blender by Kayla C, PT, DPT
Board-Certified Neurological Clinical Specialist