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Tendonitis can occur anywhere on the body where there's a tendon, so there are many different types of tendonitis. This is a common but painful condition marked by inflammation and swelling of a tendon, the fibrous bands that connect bones to muscles. Tendonitis is one of several conditions known as repetitive stress disorders.
Specific types of tendonitis (also spelled tendinitis) are usually classified by the body part affected (such as Achilles tendonitis), or the activity that causes it (such as "tennis elbow"). Treatment for tendonitis will vary based on location and the particular body mechanic used.
Most types of tendonitis will heal if the patient reduces or stops the activity that caused the injury, to allow the tendons to rest. For instance, a runner with patellar tendonitis (which affects the knee) should refrain from running for a few weeks (or however long a medical professional recommends).
Ice and over-the-counter pain medications are usually prescribed for mild cases, but for more serious or recurring cases of tendonitis, cortisone shots may be an option. If tendonitis doesn't heal it can lead to torn or ruptured tendons, which usually require surgery to correct.
Here's a look at the most common types of tendonitis and their causes.
Elbow Tendonitis or Tennis Elbow
It's possible to have tennis elbow even if you've never picked up a racket, but this type of tendonitis is so named because affects a tendon many tennis players use repetitively. It's an inflammation of the tendon on the outside of the elbow connecting the elbow bone to the muscle that allows extension of the wrist and finger. Picture Roger Federer reaching for a backhand shot, and you can see how this injury occurs.
Rotator Cuff Tendonitis
The rotator cuff in the shoulder is a group of muscles and tendons that keep the bone in the shoulder socket. There are four tendons in the rotator cuff that help with shoulder movement, and any one of them can become injured or swollen.
Sometimes rotator cuff tendonitis happens after a traumatic injury, but it can also be the result of repetitive motion. These motions can include a professional baseball player swinging a bat, or a non-athlete shoveling snow.
Runners and jumpers are most at risk for Achilles tendonitis, an inflammation of the tendon connecting the lower calf muscles to the heel bone. This type of tendonitis is more common as people age, especially among those who exercise only semi-regularly.
Like most other kinds of tendonitis, most instances of Achilles tendonitis improve with rest and ice therapy. It's one of the more stubborn recurring types of tendonitis, especially among athletes who may be unwilling to give the Achilles the rest it needs to fully heal.
De Quervain's Tendonitis
De Quervain's tendonitis is swelling in the tendons on the thumb side of the wrist, which is felt when making a fist or trying to grip something (it's named for Swiss surgeon Fritz de Quervain, who was primarily known for his work researching thyroid ailments).
De Quervain's tendonitis can cause pain from the base of the thumb all the way up into the lower arm. This type of tendonitis is common among many athletes as well as people who frequently use a keyboard to type. It can also be the result of an injury to the outer part of the hand.
In the modern era, de Quervain's tendonitis is sometimes referred to as Blackberry thumb or texting thumb, since it's associated with the style of typing most people use on their smartphones.
The patella, or kneecap, is connected to the shin bone by the patellar tendon. Patellar tendonitis is very common among athletes who frequently jump, such as basketball and volleyball players. But they're not the only one susceptible to this injury.
Since it's such a large tendon, treatment of patellar tendonitis usually involves physical therapy to make knee muscles stronger.
Ankle tendonitis is an irritation of the posterior tibialis tendon that runs underneath the bony bump of the ankle. People who have flat feet are extremely susceptible to this type of tendonitis, and while patellar tendonitis is more common among long-distance runners, newer runners frequently suffer from ankle tendonitis.
Bicep tendonitis is an irritation of the tendon that connects the bicep muscle to the shoulder. It is usually the result of an injury caused by an overhead motion such as those used in tennis or volleyball.