Tendonitis Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

A common repetitive use injury

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Tendonitis (also spelled tendinitis) is the inflammation of a tendon, the flexible, fibrous cord that connects a muscle to bone. Tendonitis symptoms include pain, loss of mobility, and decreased strength.

Many things can cause tendonitis, but repetitive use is a common culprit. Rest and preventing re-injury are the core of any tendonitis treatment plan.

This article looks at tendonitis symptoms, when they warrant medical attention, possible causes, common locations, plus how it's diagnosed, treated, and prevented.

Common symptoms of tendonitis
Verywell / Jessica Olah

Tendonitis Symptoms

Tendonitis generally causes sudden pain and inflammation. In some cases, though, symptoms come on gradually, often after a period of excessive activity but no significant injury.

The most common symptoms of tendonitis include:

  • Swelling of the tendon
  • Tenderness directly over the tendon
  • Pain with movement
  • A cracking or grating sensation when the joint is moved
  • A lump or bulge on the tendon itself
  • Stiffness due to swelling

When to See a Healthcare Provider

You should see a healthcare provider for tendonitis:

  • If the pain doesn't improve in a few days
  • You have recurring tendon pain
  • Your symptoms are severe

Tendonitis Causes

You have hundreds of tendons throughout your body, but only a handful are affected by tendonitis. These tendons tend to be connected to fewer blood vessels, and the lack of blood supply hinders their ability to heal after injury.

Common causes of tendonitis include:

  • Sudden or forceful motions (heavy lifting, pitching a baseball)
  • Unnatural or extreme motions (dancing, serving a tennis ball)
  • Poor body mechanics when performing physical activities (working out, painting a house)

Chronic tendonitis is most often caused by overusing a tendon as you work, play sports, or perform other daily activities. It's especially tied to repetitive movements such as you'd use on an assembly line or in sports like golf or tennis.

Direct injury—such as a blow to the tendon—can also cause tendonitis. So can inflammatory disorders like rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.

Risk Factors

Factors that make you more likely to develop tendonitis are:

  • Age: While young athletes often have tendonitis, it becomes more common with age and is most common in people over 40 and especially after menopause. This is because tendons lose their flexibility over time.
  • Sex: Those assigned male at birth (AMAB) are more likely to have tendonitis in the Achilles, hip adductor, and knee tendons. Those assigned female at birth (AFAB) are more likely to have it in the gluteus medius tendon in the hip.
  • Obesity: This condition can place additional strain on your tendons, especially the ones in your legs and feet.
  • Diabetes: The condition tends to cause thicker and abnormal tendons.
  • Participating in certain sports: Sports that are highly associated with tendonitis include volleyball, track and field, tennis, golf, swimming, baseball (especially pitching), basketball, football, and soccer.
  • Smoking: Cigarette smoking changes your tissues and makes you 1.5 times more likely to have overuse tendonitis.

Job-related risk factors include:

  • Repetitive movements
  • Heavy lifting, especially above the shoulders or head
  • Regular or constant exposure to vibration
  • Awkward shoulder postures

Some of these risk factors (like age) can't be changed. However, you do have control over some of them. You may want to explore safety measures you can take at work or while playing sports.

What Is Tendinopathy?

Tendinopathy is an umbrella term that refers to any abnormal condition of the tendon. This includes tendonitis and other conditions that cause tendon pain, inflammation, and limited mobility.

Common Tendonitis Types and Locations

Tendonitis is typically classified by its location. Some of the more common types include:

Tendonitis Diagnosis

Healthcare providers often diagnose tendonitis based on a description of your symptoms and a physical examination.

If the cause isn't clear, they may order additional tests such as X-rays and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

MRI shows the soft tissues, so it's good for spotting tendon problems. X-rays are more useful for ruling out injuries to the bone.

Tendonitis vs. Tendinosis

Tendonitis isn't the same as tendinosis, which is a condition that includes structural tendon degeneration. Imaging can tell a healthcare provider if you're dealing with one or the other.

Tendonitis Treatment

The main objective of tendonitis treatment is to minimize movements that can further inflame the tendon. Depending on where it is, you may need to reduce or modify everyday tasks like driving or typing until symptoms are fully settled.

To start treating tendonitis before you see a healthcare provider, you can use:

  • Rest
  • Ice
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like Advil (ibuprofen) or Aleve (naproxen)

Medical treatment of tendonitis involves three elements:

  • Limiting movement
  • Reducing inflammation
  • Rehabilitating the injured tendon, joint, and muscle

As part of this, you may be given a wrist, brace, or splint to wear. It can help immobilize and relieve pressure on the afflicted tendon.

You may also benefit from steroid injections, physical therapy, or, in severe cases, surgery.

Tendonitis Prevention

If you're at risk of tendonitis, you may want to take steps to prevent it (or keep it from coming back).

If you're an athlete:

  • Be sure to warm up thoroughly before working out and cool down afterward.
  • Before starting a new sport, spend a few weeks or months stretching and strengthening new muscles you'll use.
  • Learn the proper way to use athletic equipment.
  • Work out several times a week.

At work or when performing daily tasks:

  • Take regular breaks.
  • Change your activity type frequently.
  • Wear splints, wraps, or other supportive devices to protect tendons with heavy use.
  • Improve your overall strength and flexibility.

You can also look at modifiable risk factors, such as smoking and your weight.


Tendonitis involves inflammation of a tendon. It can be caused by injury, repetitive use, or inflammatory disease. It's more common if you're an athlete, have a physical job, are over 40, have obesity or diabetes, and smoke cigarettes.

Common locations are the Achilles tendon, knee, wrist, elbow, bicep, and shoulder. Common symptoms are pain, swelling, and stiffness.

Tendonitis can be diagnosed with a physical exam and possibly imaging studies. Treatments include immobilization, ice, steroid injections, physical therapy and surgery. You can prevent tendonitis by staying in shape, losing weight, and training for new activities.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What's the best way to get rid of tendonitis?

    Tendonitis treatment may involve rest, ice, compression, and elevation (R.I.C.E.); pain medications or corticosteroid injections; and an exercise plan or physical therapy. Severe cases may require surgery.

  • Can tendonitis affect the arm?

    Yes, tendonitis can affect the arm. You can have it in the shoulder, elbow, biceps, or wrist.

  • Are there diseases that cause tendon pain?

    Yes, certain diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes can cause or raise your risk of tendon pain. These are systemic (body-wide) diseases that can eventually lead to tendonitis.

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Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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