Injury and swelling of one or more tendons causing pain and restricted movement. It's also sometimes called tendinopathy.

What is tendonitis?

Tendons are the strong tissues that attach muscles to your bones. Tendonitis is an injury, often due to overuse, that causes the affected tendon to become inflamed.

Tendinosis is chronic (long-term) tendonitis. Some tendons are covered by a tendon sheath (synovium) which contains fluid (synovial fluid) to allow them to glide easily. Tenosynovitis is when there's damage to this sheath.

The most common types of tendonitis are:

  • Achilles tendonitis – causing heel pain
  • Calcific tendonitis – caused by a build-up of calcium crystals, most commonly affecting your shoulders
  • DeQuervain’s tenosynovitis – affecting your wrists and thumbs
  • Tennis elbow – causing elbow pain on the outside of your joint
  • Jumper’s knee – causing knee pain
  • Rotator cuff tendonitis – affecting your shoulders, but can also cause neck pain
  • Trigger finger
  • Supraspinatus tendonitis – affecting a tendon in your shoulder

Tendonitis is common in middle-aged people who do a lot of sport. It also occurs if you do a lot of repetitive tasks at work.

You’re also more likely to have tendonitis if you have some types of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis.

In some cases, there’s no obvious cause (idiopathic).

You can treat a mild tendon injury at home and it should improve in two to three weeks. More serious injuries can take a few months.

How to tell if you have tendonitis

Symptoms of tendonitis include:

  • Feeling a lump in the tendon area
  • Grating or cracking when you move the tendon (crepitus)
  • Pain (in the affected tendon) that gets worse when you move
  • Problems moving the tendon
  • Swelling, heat and redness

Talk to your doctor if you’re concerned about symptoms

You can book an appointment with a Spire private GP today.

Book an appointment

Diagnosis and tests for tendonitis

You should see your doctor if:

  • Your symptoms haven’t improved in a few weeks
  • You’re in a lot of pain
  • You think you’ve torn (ruptured) the tendon

Your doctor will discuss your symptoms and examine you to diagnose tendonitis or tenosynovitis. They'll check for tenderness and pain when you move the tendon.

In most cases, you won’t need any more tests. However, your doctor may arrange for blood tests if they think there may be an infection.

They may also arrange for an X-ray, ultrasound scan or an MRI scan to rule out other conditions.

Common treatments for tendonitis

You may be able to treat yourself at home to bring down swelling and support the injured area.

  • Rest as much as possible
  • Apply an ice pack regularly
  • Wrap a bandage around the affected area and raise it on a pillow or cushion when you’re sitting or lying down
  • Take painkillers, if advised by your doctor

Your doctor may also arrange for you to have physiotherapy or in some cases, your doctor may advise:

  • Extracorporeal shockwave therapy (ESWT) to help improve healing in your tendon
  • Platelet rich plasma (PRP) injections to speed up your recovery
  • Steroid injections to reduce inflammation and pain
  • Surgery to repair your tendon and remove damaged tissue