Tendonitis is the inflammation of a tendon, the connection between muscle and bone, which causes pain and discomfort. The most common causes of tendonitis include strain, overuse, injury or too much exercise. It can also be linked to diseases such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis or infection.

Compassionate Healing Starts Here

Our world-renowned Hand, Wrist & Microvascular Surgery providers are experts in the full spectrum of conditions and injuries related to the hand, wrist, forearm and elbow. With access to the latest research and technology, our subspecialists deliver innovative treatments and procedures for even the most complex problems to return normal function to an essential part of your body.

To schedule an appointment, please call the UC Health Hand, Wrist & Microvascular Surgery team at 513-475-8690.


Understanding Tendonitis

What is tendonitis?

Tendons are strong cords of tissue that connect muscles to bones. Tendonitis is when a tendon is inflamed. It can happen to any tendon in the body. When a tendon is inflamed, it can cause swelling, pain, and discomfort. 

Another problem called tenosynovitis is linked to tendonitis. This is an inflammation of the lining of the tendon sheath around a tendon. Often the sheath itself is inflamed, but both the sheath and the tendon can be inflamed at the same time.

Common types of tendonitis

Lateral epicondylitis. This is most often known as tennis elbow. It causes pain to the side of the elbow and forearm, along the thumb side of the arm. The pain is caused by irritation of the tendons that bend or extend the wrist back and away from the palm.

Medial epicondylitis. This is most often known as golfer's or baseball elbow. It causes pain from the elbow to the wrist on the palm side of the forearm. The pain is caused by irritation of the tendons that bend or flex the wrist toward the palm.

Rotator cuff tendonitis. This is a shoulder disorder. It causes inflammation of the shoulder capsule and related tendons. The most common cause of injury is repetitive overhead activities. Pain on the side of the upper arm at the shoulder is the most common symptom. Pain may get worse with overhead movements. Or it can get worse when you raise the arm above shoulder level. It may also hurt to lie on the shoulder at night.

DeQuervain tenosynovitis. This is a common tenosynovitis disorder. This type of tendonitis can cause swelling in the tendon sheath of the tendons of the thumb and is most often caused from overuse. You may have pain, soreness, redness and swelling along the side of your wrist and the base of your thumb. You may feel pain when you pinch or grasp things, turn or touch your wrist, or make a fist. Your thumb may catch or make a crackling sound when you move it.

Impingement syndrome. Also known as swimmer’s shoulder. It is a problem with the shoulder joint that occurs when certain parts within the joint swell and are pinched. Symptoms include pain, pinching, or stiffness in your shoulder. Pain often comes with movement, particularly reaching overhead or backward. It may also be felt when the shoulder is at rest. Pain at night during sleep is common.

Patellar tendonitis. Most commonly known as jumper’s knee, is a condition characterized by inflammation of your patellar tendon. The most common symptoms of jumper's knee are pain and tenderness around your patellar tendon, swelling, pain with jumping, running, or walking, pain when bending or straightening your leg or tenderness behind the lower part of your kneecap.

Achilles tendonitis. Achilles tendonitis is an overuse injury that results in inflammation of the Achilles tendon, found on the back of the ankle. This pain mostly happens when you move the ankle. The tendon feel stiff after a period of no activity, such as sleeping. It may also become swollen and you may hear a crackling sound when you move your ankle.

What causes tendonitis?

Tendonitis may be caused by strain, overuse, injury or too much exercise. It may also be linked to a disease such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis or infection.

What are the symptoms of tendonitis?

Symptoms vary depending on the type of tendonitis but may include:

  • Pain in the tendon when moved.

  • Swelling from fluid and inflammation.

  • A grating feeling when moving the joint.

The symptoms of tendonitis can seem like other health problems. Talk with your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

How is tendonitis diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your health history and perform a physical exam. You may have tests to check for other problems that may be causing your symptoms. The tests may include:

  • Joint aspiration. The healthcare provider uses a needle to take a small amount of fluid from the joint. The fluid is tested to check for gout or signs of an infection.

  • X-ray. A small amount of radiation is used to make an image. Tendons can’t be seen on an X-ray, but they can show bone. This test can check for arthritis, calcifications, and other problems.

How is tendonitis treated?

Treatment may include:

  • Changing your activities.

  • Icing the area to reduce inflammation and pain. To make a cold pack, put ice cubes in a plastic bag that seals at the top. Wrap the bag in a clean, thin towel or cloth.

  • Putting a splint on the area to limit movement.

  • Steroid injections to reduce inflammation and pain.

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicine (called NSAIDs) to reduce inflammation and pain.

  • Antibiotics if due to infection.

  • Surgery if other treatments don't work.

Contact Us

At UC Health, we lead the region in scientific discoveries and embrace a spirit of purpose – offering our patients and their families something beyond everyday healthcare. At UC Health, we offer hope.