Tennis elbow and other types of tendonitis can make daily tasks painful and prevent you from engaging in the sports you love. Tendonitis (also known as tendinitis) is an inflammation of a tendon, the strong, flexible bands of tissue – similar to a braided rope – that hold muscles to bones. Tendons make it possible for the body to perform such tasks as jumping, bending the elbow, grasping objects, and typing at a computer.
What causes tendonitis?
Tendonitis is most often the result of repeated motions, overstress, or injury to certain muscles and joints. Sports and overuse are the most common causes of tendonitis. However, any active individual may develop the condition, not just athletes or people who perform intense physical labor.
In tendonitis, the tendon becomes inflamed and may rub against bone or nerve, making movement difficult and painful. Tennis and golfer’s elbow, jumper’s knee, and quarterback shoulder are some common manifestations of tendonitis.
How can I help prevent tendonitis?
You can perform your workouts or sports activities the smart way and help lower your risk of developing tendonitis. Physical therapists and sports doctors agree on the benefits of injury-prevention routines. They suggest you:
- Get your body ready to play. Warm up thoroughly before you begin your physical activity. Remember the 5 x 30 rule: five minutes of warm-up for every 30 minutes of exercise. For example, an hour-long tennis match should be preceded by 10 minutes of warm-up; 30 minutes on the treadmill = 5 minutes of warm-up, etc. During your warm-up phase, warm up the joints you will use and gently stretch all the muscles and tendons you are planning to exercise.
- Easy does it. Take the time to gradually build the intensity level of your workout, and slowly increase exercise load. Use restricted force, do not overload your joints and limit the number of repetitions. Avoid the continuous, repetitive use of the same joint and rest when possible. Mixing up your workout during different days helps avoid overstressing your tendons.
- Use proper posture and techniques for the activity you perform. Most exercise or sports activities have specific ways of positioning the body, and different ways of completing specific movements and actions. Ask your doctor for advice, or a referral to a trainer or physical therapist for specific recommendations. At work, turn your working space into a true, user-friendly environment. Some changes include positioning your computer and other desk equipment at the correct height, and distance. Use a firm, comfortable chair positioned at the right height for your desk; when seated, your knees should bend at a level parallel to the seat of your chair. Shift your position several times every hour.
- Prepare. When training for a new sport or physical activity, you can begin building strength and flexibility in the muscles you will be using, ahead of time.
- Stop if pain occurs. The old gym mantra “No pain, no gain” isn’t necessarily true. Your body is telling you to take a break, so listen! If pain continues, it’s time to end that specific activity for the day.
If you have questions about tendonitis in your upper extremity, the expert team at Greater Chesapeake Hand to Shoulder could be right for you. Since 1987, they have diagnosed and treated a host of shoulder, arm, wrist, and elbow conditions. Highly experienced and board certified, their surgeons will work hard to ensure you achieve optimal results. For more information, or to schedule an appointment, call 410-296-6232.