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Tendonitis (Tendinitis)

Tendonitis involves inflammation of tendons, such as the Achilles (Achilles tendonitis), patellar (patellar tendonitis), biceps (biceps tendonitis), and hip (hip tendonitis), causing pain, stiffness, and tenderness in the affected area. Treatment typically includes rest, ice, stretching exercises, physical therapy, and in some cases, orthotics or corticosteroid injections. Learn more about tendonitis and care options at UPMC.

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What Is Tendonitis?

Tendonitis is an inflammation or irritation of a tendon — a thick cord that attaches bone to muscle.

With thousands of tendons in our bodies, it seems inevitable that we will experience some level of tendon pain, discomfort, or injury during our lives.

What causes tendonitis?

Anyone, at any age, can be at risk of tendonitis.

Repetitive overuse of the tendon and injuries to the area are the most common causes of tendonitis.

Activities that can cause this type of injury include:

  • Gardening
  • Raking
  • Carpentry
  • Shoveling
  • Painting
  • Certain sports

What are the risk factors of tendonitis?

Tendonitis risk factors include:

  • Poor posture
  • Lack of adequate stretching before exercise
  • Playing sports (tennis, golf, skiing, bowling, and baseball)

What are the types of tendonitis?

Tendonitis affects some areas of the body more than others.

Achilles tendonitis

The Achilles tendon — also known as the heel cord — is the thickest tendon in the human body.

Found at the back of the leg, the Achilles tendon attaches your calf muscle to the heel of your foot. It enables you to pull your heel off the ground and push forward so that you can move.

Achilles tendonitis is a common injury due to overuse, or lack of stretching the calf muscles.

Kneecap (patella) tendonitis

Patellar tendonitis impacts the tendon that connects the kneecap to the shinbone. This tendon — along with the quadriceps muscle and tendon — helps you straighten the knee, while providing the required strength for this action.

Tendonitis in the kneecap occurs when you overuse or place repeated stress on the patellar tendon. This causes small tears in the tendon, which become too much for the body to heal on its own.

Overuse injuries to the patellar tendon are common among athletes in sports that require jumping, such as basketball, volleyball, soccer, and gymnastics.

Bicep tendonitis

Tendonitis of the biceps occurs due to friction and irritation of the biceps tendon.

Inflammation of the biceps tendon and synovial sheath causes pain when the arm and shoulder are in an overhand throwing motion.

Anyone who participates in continuous or repetitive shoulder actions are at risk of tendonitis of the biceps. Just as in other forms of tendonitis, these repetitive motions cause constant injury that the body is unable to repair on its own.

Hip tendonitis and tendonitis

Tendonitis of the hip refers to inflammation of the tendon (connecting muscle to bone) and can cause significant pain. In most cases, tendonitis results from overuse of this muscle. Tendonosis refers to degeneration and tearing of the tendon.

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What Are the Symptoms of Tendonitis?

Achilles tendonitis symptoms

Symptoms of Achilles tendonitis may include:

  • An ache in the back of the leg, just below your calf muscle
  • Pain that often increases after being active
  • Swelling in the area

There are plenty of ways to prevent this painful injury, including stretching and easing into a low-impact workout regimen.

Patellar (kneecap) tendonitis symptoms

The most common symptom of patellar tendonitis is a pain located directly over the tendon in the kneecap.

Often, your doctor can mimic symptoms by applying pressure directly on the inflamed tendon.

Hip tendonitis and tendonitis symptoms

With tendonitis, the tendon inflammation can cause pain with stretching motions, swelling, warmth surrounding the area, tenderness, and redness.

With tendonitis, degeneration and tearing of the tendon can result in pain with stretching motions, as well as pain with use of the involved tendon.

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How Do You Diagnose Tendonitis?

You doctor will perform a detailed medical exam to ensure that the tendon is the culprit.

Other tests to confirm a tendonitis diagnosis include:

  • X-rays to rule out bone deformities or arthritis
  • Blood work to rule out diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis

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How Do You Treat Tendonitis?

Nonsurgical treatment for tendonitis

Once your doctor confirms a diagnosis of tendonitis, he or she may prescribe the following treatments for tendonitis:

  • Rest or activity modifications
  • Anti-inflammatory medications
  • Physical therapy
  • Stretching exercises
  • Ice
  • Elevation

Arthroscopic surgery for tendonitis

If nonsurgical treatments do not help your tendonitis, your doctor may recommend an arthroscopic surgical procedure.

During arthroscopic surgery, your orthopaedic surgeon will properly anchor the tendons.

After tendonitis surgery, most patients begin a rehab program that will stretch, strengthen, and restore range of motion. 

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