The human body contains over 600 individual skeletal muscles. Each of these muscles is attached to your skeleton by a type of strong, flexible connective tissue called a tendon.
Tendons are hugely important for movement. Without them, our muscles wouldn’t be able to pull the rest of our body along when they contract. Unfortunately, like the rest of our tissues, they’re susceptible to injury.
If your tendons become inflamed after a sports injury or from overuse, you could end up with tendonitis. Read on to learn about some of the most serious tendonitis symptoms that you shouldn’t ignore.
1. Pain on the Inside or Outside of Your Elbow
If you start to notice consistent discomfort where your elbow and forearm meet, it might be a type of tendonitis called lateral epicondylitis. Known commonly as “tennis elbow” or “golfer’s elbow,” this condition happens when the tendons around your elbow joint get micro-tears from overuse. This leads to pain, swelling, and difficulty gripping and picking up objects.
You don’t have to be an athlete to develop this condition, though. Any repetitive motion that uses the elbow can be to blame. People end up with tennis elbow from painting, yard work, cooking, and even playing string instruments.
Between 1-3% of the general population ends up with elbow tendonitis every year. However, the incidence tends to be higher in people who have jobs with repetitive motion, like assembly line workers. If you think you might have tennis elbow, it’s important to take a break from repetitive activity and see a physician.
2. Can’t Lift Your Arm Over Your Head
If you have pain in your shoulder that keeps you from lifting your arm up over your head, it could be because of tendon inflammation in your rotator cuff.
Like elbow tendonitis, this injury is often associated with two sports: swimming and baseball. “Pitcher’s shoulder” and “swimmer’s shoulder” are overuse injuries that come from the frequent swinging of the shoulder in a circular motion.
If you have tendonitis in your shoulder, you likely have some damage to the surrounding muscles as well. This can lead to arm weakness, shoulder laxity, and pain throughout your shoulder and upper back.
3. Clicking, Swollen Thumbs and Wrists
You don’t have to be an athlete or work in a physical job to get a tendonitis injury. If you spend a lot of time using a pen or pencil, lifting a baby, or playing piano, you might end up with inflammation in your fingers and wrists.
If you experience pain at the base of your thumb and down into that side of your wrist, it could be de Quervain’s tenosynovitis. Inflammation of your thumb and wrist tendons makes it hard to grasp and hold objects. You might feel a “sticking” or “catching” sensation when you try to move your thumb.
If the pain is located in a finger or upper-thumb joint, it could be a case of trigger finger. The hallmark symptom of this condition is a painful snapping or clicking sensation when you try to straighten the joint. You might also have a sore bump (called a nodule) at the base of your finger where the tendon is inflamed.
Both of these conditions are more common as you age. It’s important to seek treatment right away because the symptoms will only get worse if ignored. This can sometimes lead to fingers that “lock” in a bent position or chronic hand and wrist weakness.
4. Pain and Swelling in Other Joints
Even though the joints listed above are some of the most common sites to develop tendon inflammation, you can get it in any location that there’s a tendon. Knees, ankles, and hips are other places that people often get symptoms of tendonitis.
If you’ve had a recent sports injury or have a job/hobby that involves repetitive motion, keep an eye out for these symptoms:
- Constant pain that gets worse when you move
- Swelling and inflammation
- Skin that’s red and warm to the touch
- Feeling a lump or knot on the tendon
- A grating or crackling sensation with movement
If you ignore these symptoms and keep up your regular activity, you could make the problem much worse. Untreated tendonitis can develop into chronic tendinosis and cause permanent degradation of your tendons. In some cases, it can even lead to tendon rupture, which requires surgery to fix.
So if you suspect tendonitis, stop doing the activities that cause the most pain. Follow the RICE method: rest, ice, and compression. And make sure to see a doctor to rule out other more serious injuries.
Your doctor may recommend that you see a physical therapist for treatment. They can combine gentle exercise with a number of therapeutic techniques to bring down your pain and swelling. And by strengthening the surrounding muscles and improving your form, they can even help you avoid getting tendonitis again in the future.
If You Notice These Tendonitis Symptoms, Don’t Ignore Them
Tendonitis is definitely treatable, but it can progress into chronic pain and more serious injury if not dealt with in the right way. So if you start to notice these tendonitis symptoms don’t ignore them and hope they’ll go away on their own.
Seeing a physical therapist can help you recover from acute or chronic tendonitis and prevent future injuries. If you’re struggling with tendonitis pain, give Bodywise PT a call. Book an appointment today so we can help you get back to doing what you love.