Sunday, June 29, 2003


Tendinitis (ten-DIN-eye-tus) is the inflammation of a tendon (a fibrous, cordlike connective tissue that joins and transfers power from a muscle to a bone). It is a common problem in both young and older people, but musicians, athletes, and people who do repetitive motions at work are particularly susceptible. Severe cases can cause a person to lose his or her ability to work or play.

It is most often caused by overuse or improper posture during work or sports; using one's body in an awkward position can often cause the disorder, so proper work ergonomics are an important element of prevention, as are proper stretching and warming up before strenuous activity. However, tendinitis may also be caused by an infection of the sheath surrounding the tendon. It may also be found as a complication of disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, or diabetes.

The symptoms of tendinits include pain, swelling, and stiffness. Mild cases may cause minor discomfort and are usually temporary. Severe cases, which can become recurrent or chronic, can cause debilitating pain and loss of motion. For instance, a bad case of tendinitis in the wrist can cause shooting pains that spread up the entire arm, causing that arm to be pretty much useless during flare-ups.

Treatment for tendinitis largely depends on its cause. If it's caused by an infection or other illness, the main course of action would be to treat the underlying disease. Mild cases caused by poor ergonomics or poor conditioning may be treated by administering anti-inflammatory drugs (anything from aspirin to ibuprofen to naproxen) and helping the patient to correct his or her body posture and improving his or her condition through stretching and exercises.

Treatment for more severe cases includes wrapping or splinting the affected area (compression helps the swelling go down), alternately applying heat and ice packs to the affected area, and taking pain and anti-inflammatory medication. Sometimes the pain is intense, and doctors may prescribe drugs such as vicodin or give injections of other pain meds. If the swelling and inflammation don't respond sufficiently to standard anti-inflammatory drugs, steroid medications such as prednisone may be prescribed.

If severe tendinitis doesn't respond to medications, surgery may be necessary.

Common forms of tendinitis include:

  • carpal tunnel syndrome -- this inflammation of the tendons of the wrist affects people who engage in repetitive hand motions such as typists, painters, musicians, cashiers, and assembly line workers.

  • extensor tendinitis -- this affects the tendons on the back of the hand and wrist. People who play stringed instruments are susceptible, as are people who engage in repetitive motions that bend their wrists back.

  • Achilles tendinitis -- this particularly afflicts baseball, football, and tennis players, as well as runners, dancers, and women who wear high-heeled shoes. (wertperch says "It hurts like hell, that I can tell you. I had to quit my cleaning business thanks to that)

  • shoulder tendinitis (supraspinatus tendinitis and biceps tendinitis) -- this often affects people who do overhead or raised-arm work in awkward positions such as electricians and carpenters. It is also seen in athletes who engage in overhead motions such as throwing a baseball, swimming or spiking a volleyball.

  • DeQuervain's tendinitis -- this affects the tendons at the base of the thumb. Violinists and guitar players are particularly susceptible (Ouroboros says, "I have it from a violinist that attempting the Paganini etudes without properly working up to them is a primary trigger for this in violinists"), as are video game players.

  • lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow) -- this affects people who do repetitive, forceful movements with the fingers, wrist and forearm, such as hitting a tennis ball or throwing a baseball.

  • knee tendinitis (patellar tendinitis, "jumper's knee") -- this affects the tendons that connect the kneecap (patella) to the muscles that straighten the leg. It commonly afflicts people who do a lot of jumping, such as basketball players, as well as tennis players and weight lifters.

  • hamstring tendinitis -- this affects the tendons that connect to muscles that flex the knee, such as the biceps femoris, semitendinosus and semimembranosus. It commonly afflicts basketball and football players.