It’s no secret that life only gets harder as you get older.
The list of new challenges gets longer with every decade. Losing weight only gets more difficult as your metabolism slows down; your energy levels may decline; and even your hair is at risk as the odds of hair loss increase with age.
Another side effect of aging is that your tendons become more susceptible to inflammation, strains, and injury. This irritation and pain is known as tendinitis, and age is one of several risk factors.
What Are Tendons?
Tendons are flexible tissues made of collagen that connect muscles to bones in the body. They’re in your ankles, knees, shoulders, elbows, wrists, and knuckles, to name a few.
Tendons work alongside your ligaments to stabilize your joints, allowing you to bend, stretch, and rotate your extremities. Your body relies on your tendons and ligaments to take the strain of bending. Tendons are much more flexible than your bones or muscles, but they do have their limits.
What Causes Tendinitis?
Tendinitis, sometimes spelled "tendonitis", is the name for when one or more of your tendons become irritated, inflamed, or strained.
The most common causes of tendinitis are overuse or repetitive motions that apply an excessive amount of pressure on your tendons. These repetitions might result from a job or exercise, and over time, they can result in your tendons getting strained.
It’s also possible for tendinitis to develop due to an injury. Overextending your joints, even for a second, can be enough to strain your tendons and result in tendinitis.
Who Is at Risk of Tendinitis?
Anyone can experience tendinitis, but a few risk factors will increase the odds. Taking steps to reduce these risk factors can help prevent tendinitis and lessen the severity of the symptoms.
These are the factors that can play a role in tendinitis:
As mentioned earlier, age plays a critical role in your odds of experiencing tendinitis. Just like an elastic band or spring, your tendons naturally start to lose their flexibility over time. As your tendons slowly become more rigid, it only gets easier for them to be overexerted and strained.
Daily stretching exercises can help keep your tendons in good shape and prevent strains or tears from developing.
Performing the same repetitive actions every day at your job is one of the leading causes of tendinitis.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 70,000 people will miss work due to tendinitis. Manufacturing jobs that require the same movements countless times a day can eventually lead to strained tendons. Labor-intensive occupations like gardeners, carpenters, and construction workers are a few other examples of jobs that commonly result in tendinitis. Musicians are another group that typically deals with strained tendons.
Inflammation in your body increases your risk of experiencing tendinitis and worsens the symptoms. Depending on what you're eating, you might be increasing your body's inflammatory response. Alcohol, sugar, and processed foods can cause inflammation or prolong its presence in your body.
Cutting back on unhealthy foods can provide several health benefits and lower your odds of encountering tendinitis.
Exercise is crucial to maintaining your overall health, but follow a few guidelines or you might end up hurting yourself.
Building muscles requires you to perform the same motions over and over. Repeating the same movements is the number one cause of tendinitis. The odds only get higher when you add weights and resistance. Poor posture and improper form during exercise can lead to an increased risk of injuring your tendons.
Following proper lifting techniques and giving your tendons time to rest and heal can help reduce your chances of tendon strains.
Athletes commonly encounter tendon injuries and strains due to constantly performing the same actions. Several types of tendinitis get their nicknames from sports. Tennis, golf, and basketball are three sports with an elevated risk of tendinitis.
While these activities can be fun, you must give your tendons time to rest.
There are a few medical conditions that can harm your tendons. Gout and rheumatoid arthritis will significantly increase your risk of tendinitis.
Another health factor is the strength of your immune system. Thyroid disease, diabetes, and kidney disease are a few conditions that result in higher than average levels of inflammation.
Inflammation is your body’s first line of defense and is your immune system’s attempt to protect you. The problem is that having inflammation can weaken your muscles and tendons over time. They get sore faster, and it may be easier for you to overexert them.
What Are the Symptoms of Tendinitis?
The symptoms of tendinitis are usually pain, grating, and tenderness in the affected tendon whenever moving it. The tendon will commonly swell up and throb at night and stiffen up by morning.
Depending on the location of the tendinitis, the symptoms can be very different:
- Achilles tendonitis affects the Achilles tendon that connects your heel to your calf muscle. The Achilles tendon is vital for stabilizing your feet and maintaining your balance. Tendinitis in this area will make it difficult to walk, jump, and even stand. You’ll need to keep weight off this tendon and elevate it when sitting or laying down.
- Supraspinatus tendinitis affects the top of your shoulder joint and the outer part of your upper arm. These tendons are a part of an area commonly known as your rotator cuff. An injury to these tendons will make it painful to push, pull, reach, or lift anything. It will also cause pain when you lie on it while sleeping.
- Lateral epicondylitis affects the outer elbow tendon and is caused by constantly bending your wrist outward. Tennis players frequently encounter this type of tendinitis, so it’s referred to as tennis elbow.
- Medial epicondylitis affects the inner elbow tendon and is caused by constantly bending your wrist inward. Golfers commonly deal with this type of tendinitis, so it’s often referred to as golfer’s elbow.
- Patellar tendonitis affects the tendon that connects your kneecap to your shin. This type of tendinitis is common for basketball players or anyone that jumps often. For that reason, it’s usually referred to by its nickname of jumper’s knee.
- Stenosing tenosynovitis happens when you encounter inflammation or tendinitis in the palm of your hand. Also known as trigger finger, this injury can make it very difficult to fully extend your finger as it might be stuck in a bent position.
How Do You Treat Tendinitis?
The good thing about tendinitis is that it can be treated pretty easily. Unless you have torn your tendon, it should be back to normal after giving it some time to heal.
You can treat tendinitis at home using the following methods:
- Rest. Tendinitis is commonly the result of overusing a specific tendon. Giving the tendon a break will allow it to heal. You may need to wear a brace to limit movement, but rest is the most critical factor in treating tendinitis.
- Ice. When tendons become inflamed, they will usually swell up pretty badly. Applying ice a few times a day to your tendon for 10 minutes should help reduce swelling. Ice is most effective in the first two to three days.
- Heat. Using a warm compress, hot towel, or taking a bath can help to speed up your recovery after using ice for the first few days.
- Pain medicine. Using anti-inflammatory pain relievers or NSAIDs like ibuprofen, aspirin, or naproxen can help reduce the pain and swelling in your tendon. Over-the-counter doses should be plenty.
- Physical therapy. Stretching and other exercise techniques can help to strengthen the tendon and keep it limber. You don’t want to overdo it as the tendon has already been overworked, but keeping it from tightening up can help repair it.
- Injections. You may need to periodically have corticosteroid injections to help reduce swelling and repair your tendon.
If the symptoms aren’t getting any better, you may need to visit a health care provider. They might recommend an x-ray, ultrasound, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to get a closer look at the tendon and the nearby bones and muscles. The tendon might be torn or require surgery to repair.
Tendinitis is when your tendons get overworked or are severely strained.
Getting older means that you’ll encounter all kinds of new challenges. One of these challenges is that you’ll be more likely to experience tendinitis.
The best thing that you can do is listen to your body. Performing the same repetitive motions over and over can eventually lead to tendinitis. If you start feeling pain in your joints, you should immediately stop what you're doing and give your tendons time to rest. Ignoring the pain is a one-way trip to tendinitis.