What is it?

Tendinitis is swelling and pain in a joint. It is a common condition, usually caused by repeated injuries to a tendon, which is the part of the joint that connects muscles to bones.

Who gets it?

You are more likely to get tendinitis if you do the same kinds of movements every day or put stress on your joints. People like carpenters, gardeners, musicians, and athletes often get tendinitis. You are more likely to get tendinitis the older you get.

What are the types?

Some types of tendinitis are named after the activities that often cause them. Here are some common types:

  • Tennis elbow, which is an injury to the outer elbow tendon, often caused by repetitive wrist turning or hand gripping.
  • Golfer’s elbow, which is an injury to the inner elbow tendon, often caused by repetitive wrist turning or hand gripping.
  • Biceps tendinitis, which causes pain in the front or side of the shoulder that may travel down the arm, and sometimes pain when the arm is raised overhead.
  • Rotator cuff tendinitis, which causes pain at the tip of the shoulder and the upper, outer arm; pain may become worse when reaching, pushing, pulling, lifting, raising the arm, or lying on the shoulder.
  • Jumper's knee, more common among people who play sports that require jumping, such as basketball, which causes the knee tendon to become inflamed or tear from overuse.
  • Achilles tendinitis, which is tendinitis in the tendon on the back of the heel.

What are the symptoms?

Tendinitis causes pain just outside a joint, especially when you move it, and swelling.

What causes it?

Tendinitis is usually caused by repeated injuries to a tendon. Infection, arthritis, gout, thyroid disease, and diabetes can also cause tendinitis.

Is there a test?

To diagnose tendinitis, your doctor will probably ask questions about your medical history and conduct a physical examination. Your doctor will probably ask you to describe your pain and will ask when and where you hurt and whether anything makes the pain better or worse.

Your doctor may also do other tests, such as:

  • Touching the joint to see where your joint is swollen. 
  • X-rays, which do not show tendons, but can help rule out other problems. 
  • A magnetic resonance imaging test (MRI), which can show whether the tendon is swollen.
  • Taking fluid from the swollen area to test for an infection.
  • Injecting an anesthetic to see if the pain goes away.

How is it treated?

Treating tendinitis can reduce pain and swelling. Some common treatments include:

  • Resting and elevating the injured area.
  • Limiting your activity to reduce further injury.
  • Taking medicines that will reduce swelling, such as aspirin, naproxen, or ibuprofen.
  • Gentle stretching and strengthening exercises.
  • Applying compression to the injured area.
  • Soft tissue massage.
  • Putting a brace, splint, or band on the injured joint. 

Your doctor may also recommend ice for sudden, severe injuries, but most cases of tendinitis are long term, and ice does not help.

If your tendinitis does not improve, your doctor may inject a medicine into the area surrounding the swollen tendon.

If your tendon is completely torn, you may need surgery. If your tendon is partially or completely torn, you may also need several months of physical therapy and exercises to restore your strength and prevent further injury.

Who treats it?

Several types of health care professionals may treat you, including:

  • A primary care physician.
  • Physical therapists, who help to improve joint function.
  • Orthopaedists, who treat and perform surgery for bone and joint diseases.
  • Rheumatologists, who treat arthritis and other disease of the bones, joints, and muscles.

Can I prevent it?

Here are some tips to help reduce the risk and severity of tendinitis:

  • Warm up and stretch before exercising.
  • Strengthen the muscles around your joints.
  • Take breaks from repetitive tasks.
  • Increase the gripping surface on tools by using gloves, grip tape or other padding. Use an oversized grip on golf clubs.
  • Use two hands to hold heavy tools or hit a backhand in tennis.
  • Don’t sit still for long periods, and have good posture.
  • Begin new activities and exercises slowly.
  • Strengthen muscles around the joint.
  • Stop activities that cause pain.
  • Cushion the affected joint. Use foam for kneeling, or elbow pads. Increase the gripping surface of tools with gloves or padding. Apply grip tape or an oversized grip to golf clubs.
  • Consider talking with your doctor or physical therapist before starting new exercises and activities.
Last Reviewed: