Tendonitis (or tendinitis) is inflammation of a tendon at the point where it attaches to a joint. This leads to discomfort or pain, sometimes severe enough to be debilitating. While you can get tendonitis anywhere, it’s most common in the elbow. Elbow tendonitis affects millions of people a year, but only a fraction of the cases are severe enough to warrant medical attention.
What are Tendons?
Tendons are tough-but-elastic bands of fibrous tissue that connect muscle to bone. Normally, tendons are able to withstand a lot of stress. However, certain activities can cause tendons to become irritated or inflamed. As people age, tendons tend to degenerate and become less elastic, making injuries like tendonitis more likely. Tendonitis often affects people between the ages of 30 and 40, when they may still be active in sports but not have the same tendon elasticity as they did when younger.
Tennis Elbow and Golfer’s Elbow
Elbow tendonitis on the outside of your arm is known as tennis elbow, whereas tendonitis on the inside of your arm is commonly called golfer’s elbow. Don’t read too much into those names, though. While the conditions are named after sports that are known to cause them, you don’t have to play tennis, golf, or any other sport to get them. Other activities that involve the repetitive and/or rigorous use of forearm muscles can lead to elbow tendonitis.
However, while these injuries aren’t exclusive to the sports they’re named after, they are very common to those sports. Over half of all tennis players will suffer from tennis elbow at one point or another, and golfers suffer from golfer’s elbow at a much higher rate than the general public. Other athletes who often get these injuries include weightlifters and baseball pitchers.
Treatment for Elbow Tendonitis
Whether you have tennis elbow or golfer’s elbow, rest and icing of the area are the preferred methods of treatment. For mild cases, this is usually enough to heal the injured tendons. However, for some people rest either isn’t an option (due to a job that requires repetitive movements) or doesn’t solve the problem.
Wearing a brace is another possible treatment that can provide immediate pain relief and allow someone suffering from elbow tendonitis to continue routine activities. By compressing an area of the forearm just below the elbow, a tennis elbow brace limits the movement of injured tendons and allows forearm muscles to rest. While this isn’t considered a permanent solution, it’s been proven effective in reducing pain.
For a long-term solution, there are a variety of exercises that will strengthen forearm and wrist muscles, reducing the chances of tendonitis flareups. There are also medications available, both over-the-counter and by prescription. In rare cases, surgery may even be performed.