Health Services

Occupational Health

Common Injuries

What is tendonitis?

Tendons are thick fibrous cords that attach muscle to bone. Tendonitis is the inflammation or irritation of a tendon, which commonly occurs in the shoulders, elbows, and knees; but it can also occur in the hips, heels, and wrists. Tendonitis is sometimes referred to as tennis elbow, golfer's elbow, pitcher's shoulder, swimmer's shoulder, or jumper's knee (depending on the affected joint).
Tendonitis is sometimes confused with Carpal Tunnel syndrome.

What causes tendonitis?

Tendonitis is caused by wear and tear of the tendon, direct injury, or inflammatory diseases. Tendonitis most often results from repetitive use during work or leisure activities. The pain associated with tendonitis is caused by a small tear or inflammation in the tendon. Some cases of tendonitis are attributed to inflammatory diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, but most are due to overuse or injury.

What are the symptoms of tendonitis?

The symptoms of tendonitis occur with movement of the joint closest to the inflamed tendon. Usually, no pain occurs at rest, it hurts only with use. Symptoms might include:

  • Pain
  • Tenderness
  • Minor swelling
  • Weakness of the joint or extremity
How is tendonitis diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will take a careful history of your symptoms and perform a physical examination. X-rays are rarely helpful in the diagnosis of tendonitis because they do not show tendons; however, your provider might order one to rule out other conditions that could cause your symptoms. An MRI can show inflammation or tendon tears. Blood tests can dertermine if symptoms are caused by an underlying medical condition. Thyroid and diabetic conditions can cause similar symptoms.

How is tendonitis treated?

The goal of treatment is to relieve pain and reduce inflammation; but the course of treatment will depend on the underlying cause.

  • Over-the-counter pain relievers, rest, and ice can help to reduce inflammation and pain.
  • A brace or support may be prescribed.
  • Corticosteroid injections might be used to relieve pain and swelling, but repeated injections can weaken a tendon and increase the risk of rupture.
  • Strengthening exercises and physical therapy are used to strengthen the force-absorbing capabilities of the tendon and muscle.
  • Depending on the severity and type of tendon injury, your healthcare provider might refer to a specialist to determine if surgery is needed to repair or remove the damaged tendon.
How can tendonitis be prevented?
  1. Warm up and stretch before strenuous exercise.
  2. Take several breaks from repetitive actions like typing.
  3. Avoid activities that place excessive stress on your tendons for prolonged periods of time.
  4. If one type of exercise or activity causes persistent pain, try something else.
  5. Inflammation and pain could be caused by doing an activity incorrectly (typing, holding a tennis racket, etc.). Seek professional advice to ensure that you are doing an activity properly.
  6. Ensure that your work station is ergonomically correct. The IUPUI department of Environmental Health and Safety provides detailed information about workplace ergonomics, and they perform workstation evaluations upon request.
Work-Related Injuries

If you experience symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome or tendonitis that do not improve with the tips provided above and you think they are work-related, please visit IUPUI Campus Health. An IU Injury Form obtained from and signed by your supervisor is required for your visit. If you do not believe your symptoms are work-related and they do not improve with self-care, visit your healthcare provider.