News from Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital and Hospital Foundation
The thick, flexible cord in our bodies connecting muscle to bone is called a tendon. This fibrous connective tissue holds the bone stable. In some areas of the body, such as the hands, tendons are small, delicate bands. In other locations such as the thigh muscle, they are large rope-like cords.
Tendinitis occurs when the tendon becomes irritated, inflamed, or tears. It causes deep, nagging pain. While it can be caused by an injury, it is more likely the result of overuse or overload on the body. This includes repetitive actions such as gardening, shoveling, woodworking, or sports such as tennis, golf, baseball and skiing.
People develop tendonitis in the elbow, knees, shoulders, hips, and the base of the thumb. It also occurs in the Achilles tendon, which connects the calf muscle to the heel bone. Small sacs of fluid called bursae cushion the Achilles tendon at the heel. As the largest and strongest tendon in the body, the Achilles tendon allows movement such as standing on our toes when walking, running or jumping.
Symptoms vary depending on the affected tendon. Rotator cuff tendinitis causes dull, aching shoulder pain that often expands in the upper arm near the chest. Many with tennis elbow feel pain at the outer side of the elbow that extends to the forearm and wrist. Golfers elbow pain is similar, although it is on the inner side of the elbow.
The ability to articulate symptoms is an important part of the diagnosis process. Your physician may ask questions about your pain to get a complete picture of what you are experiencing. It is important to describe what your pain feels like. For example, is it sharp or dull? Do you feel a burning sensation?
Long-term tendon irritation can develop into tendinosis, a condition involving degenerative changes in the tendon, along with abnormal new blood vessel growth. Without treatment, tendinitis can also manifest into a tendon rupture which is a partial or complete tear of the tendon. This is much more serious and often requires surgery.
To reduce a risk of tendinitis, avoid prolonged periods of activities that place excessive strain on your tendons. If you exercise, mix it up. Cross-training can change up an impact loaded regiment such as running, biking or swimming. Take time to stretch to maximize the range of motion of your joints and minimize repetitive trauma on tight tissue. Use proper techniques and consider taking lessons or seeking advice when trying something new. And don’t forget proper workplace ergonomics. Adjust your chair, keyboard and desktop to protect your joints and tendons from excessive stress.
Depending on the situation, there are different therapies for tendonitis including the RICE treatment for pain relief. This involves resting the joint, applying ice packs, compressing the area, and keeping the joint elevated. Make sure to see your physician for the best treatment option in order to reduce the potential of a more serious diagnosis.
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