Signs that You Are Suffering from Tendinitis
Tendons are the thick, super-strong, rope-like material that connects the end of your muscles to your bones. If you subject one of your tendons to overuse, pain and inflammation can result. This is called tendinitis. The condition can strike anyone but most commonly afflicts those who engage in regular, repetitive physical activity like:
- Tennis players
- Construction workers
- Fitness instructors
Tendinitis may manifest itself suddenly, especially if you engage in what is for you an abnormal amount of physical exertion in a short amount of time (say, you spend the weekend painting the ceilings in your house or run in a road race after a period of inactivity). In many cases, however, the condition remains quietly in the background, getting progressively worse: the result of thousands of repetitive motions made over weeks, months and even years. The signs and symptoms that something is wrong may be so subtle and slow in developing that you are unaware what’s going on until it’s too late. General symptoms of the condition include:
- Pain in the affected joint
- Stiffness of the joint
- Swelling around the joint area
- Tenderness/sensitivity to touch
- Weakness in the affected joint
More Specific Signs of Tendinitis
If you know anything about arthritis the above symptoms probably look familiar to you and that is because they are, in fact, nearly identical to the symptoms for some forms of that disease. In fact, if you mistook your condition for arthritis or vice-versa you would not be the first person to make that mistake. To help clarify the situation here are some warning signs you can look for in particular joints that may indicate tendon-related trouble.
- The Rotator Cuff – If the condition has manifested itself in your shoulder you will normally experience a dull, aching pain which permeates the entire shoulder area. Sometimes this pain gets worse while lying down and it may also radiate outward toward the chest or upper arm.
- The Elbow – Pain which radiates from the elbow region down the forearm to the wrist or a sharp pain on the outside of the elbow joint away from the torso may indicate tendon trouble.
- The Knee – Pain that starts in the patella (kneecap) and extends down the shin may indicate trouble.
- The Achilles tendon – The amount of routine daily stress we subject our achilles tendon to makes it a prime candidate for tendon-related problems. There are several things you can look for that will help you determine if you have achilles tendinitis including ankle stiffness when you wake up, stiffness in your calf muscles that wasn’t there before and a dry, creaking sensation in the ankle area.
Diagnosis of Tendinitis
If you have checked for signs and symptoms and suspect something untoward is going on with your tendons it’s time to see your doctor and find out for sure. During the physical examination the doctor will probably ask you some or all of the following questions:
- How would you characterize the pain you are experiencing? It is a burning? Sharp and stabbing? Dull and general?
- Is your pain localized to a particular joint or joints?
- Is the pain you are feeling a new experience or has it been with you for a while?
- Is there tenderness, tingling or numbness associated with the painful area?
- Is the pain steady or does it come and go?
- Has the affected area been the site of past injury?
- Are you currently taking any medications for other conditions?
Besides asking you these questions your doctor will likely want you to demonstrate exactly what type of activity you were engaged in when you first became aware of any pain. Knowing this can help in determining exactly which tendon might be affected.
Additional testing or X-rays may be required to rule out other potential causes. As mentioned earlier arthritis is a common misdiagnosis when dealing with tendinitis symptoms and must be conclusively eliminated as a possible root cause before any other diagnosis can be made and treatment recommended.
- Common Treatment – If tendinitis is indicated, treatment generally revolves around rest of the affected area augmented by mild painkillers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen, physical therapy and a measured return to normal activity. On occasion, corticosteroid injections or laser therapy may be recommended.
- Platelet Therapy – Platelet therapy is still in the experimental stage but has shown some promise. In this therapy blood is drawn and centrifuged. The layer of platelets is extracted from the centrifuged blood and reintroduced into the affected area via injection where it acts to enhance the healing process.
- Surgery – Surgery is the last resort option only to be employed when all others fail. Surgery can be arthroscopic (non-invasive) or open (invasive) in nature though open surgery is generally not recommended or necessary unless the tendon has been torn or ruptured.
Once the diagnosis has been made and a treatment regimen determined your doctor will no doubt advise you to take certain steps in order to prevent a recurrence of symptoms such as:
- Learning to pace yourself during physical activities.
- Warming up before exercise.
- Making sure you are wearing the right shoes for the activity at hand.
- Modifying any training you may be engaged in to minimize repetitive stresses.
- Making sure you have the proper equipment for specific activities.
The worst thing you can do if you suspect you may have this condition is nothing. Even if you are young and in excellent health you may have to take action in the form of resting the affected joints. Failing to take appropriate action could lead to the condition becoming chronic and any damage irreversible.
If you have been diagnosed with tendinitis and the condition is interfering with your ability to earn a living you may be eligible for a $40,000 disability tax credit.
Disability Credit Canada can help you determine if you qualify for this benefit and guide you through the claims process to ensure you receive the maximum benefit the law allows.