Effective Treatment for Tendonitis
The key to the effective treatment of tendonitis is allowing sufficient time for the tendon to heal. When the tendon does not have the time to heal properly, the risk of recurring bouts of tendonitis is greatly increased.
Tendonitis treatment isn’t difficult or complicated; in fact, conservative treatment methods at home are usually effective in relieving the condition and healing the tendon. Only in severe cases, or when the tendonitis repeatedly recurs, is medical help required.
The elements of effective treatment methods for tendonitis are outlined separately:
This is the most important treatment method for tendonitis. Only through complete rest of the affected area, can the tendon heal itself, which it is quite capable of doing. Without rest, the tendonitis will progress to a severe condition that will require more aggressive treatment.
All movement that causes pain should be avoided while complete rest is undertaken. Supporting the affected limb or joint will immobilize the joint and help avoid inadvertent movements which could exacerbate the condition. This means wearing a boot for foot or ankle tendonitis; a brace for knee tendonitis; a sling for arm or shoulder tendonitis. These devices provide extra support while the tendon is healing. Immobilization is important for fast, effective treatment results.
When tendonitis affects the leg or foot, elevating the leg to heart-height helps to relieve the pain and swelling, so sit or lie with your leg elevated.
Sufficient time must be allowed for the tendon to completely heal. Because tendons are notoriously slow to heal, this will take weeks, or even months if the condition has progressed past the early stages. Recovery from tendonitis cannot be rushed; the actual time needed mainly depends on how far the condition has progressed before treatment was begun.
Tendonitis pain will subside within about three weeks with the correct treatment, but this doesn’t mean that full healing has taken place. Scar tissue, necessary for repair of the tendon, will take at least six weeks to fully form; it could take even longer.
Patience is another necessary component of successful tendonitis treatment. When you understand that recurring tendonitis is caused by returning to the activity that caused the condition, too soon, being patient will be a little easier.
Treating the affected joint with ice in the early days of tendonitis is a very effective method of relieving the pain and swelling associated with the condition.
While you are resting the affected joint, apply ice or ice packs every one to two hours for a few days, until the initial pain starts to subside. Always wrap ice or the ice pack in a towel or something similar, before putting it on your skin.
The best medications for tendonitis are anti-inflammatory drugs. In most cases, simple over-the-counter anti-inflammatories, containing substances like aspirin or ibuprofen, are effective. If these are not strong enough to give you relief, you can get a doctor’s prescription for stronger meds.
Anti-inflammatory medication addresses the inflammation in the tendon, which is the cause of the pain. Once this inflammation has subsided, healing can begin.
Be aware that some people are sensitive to these drugs and side-effects are fairly common. Talk to your doctor if you think they are causing any ill-effects with you.
Recovery – when to start exercising again
Most people realize it can be difficult to come back from an injury that has kept you from normal activity for a while. If you wait until you are fully recovered, muscle weakness and stiffness increase the time it takes to get back on your feet.
To avoid these symptoms with tendonitis, it is important to start gentle exercise after the pain has subsided; this will generally take three or four weeks. If any movement causes pain, you need to stop and rest for a few more days before trying again.
The first movements you try should be very slow and controlled stretching of the affected joint. This helps to prevent the muscles shortening. Then gentle movements that involve strength can be tried, followed by using very light weights if applicable. Different types of tendonitis require different sorts of exercises.
When the healing time is completed, start back into exercise slowly and gradually to avoid a recurrence of the tendonitis. If you feel any pain, stop and rest before starting again. Make sure you thoroughly warm the affected joint before doing any heavy exercise or playing sport. Stretch the tendons and muscles well and repeat as a cool-down afterwards.
When to consult a medical practitioner
If these conservative methods fail to ease the pain and inflammation, see your doctor for a full diagnosis. You may need to have x-rays, MRI or ultrasound to find out what is the problem. There are more aggressive treatments that a doctor can recommend.
A physical therapist or sports medicine specialist is the professional who is best suited to help you with rehabilitation exercises, if you find that these simple measures are not sufficient. These people are fully trained in rehabilitation after injury.
Specific treatment methods may differ with the area of the body affected by tendonitis. For treatment strategies, designed for specific joints, see the articles on types of tendonitis.