Have you ever woken up only to discover a burning sensitivity in your elbow, shoulder, wrist, or knee? The kind of pain that makes you feel very weak and often stings the area around your joints? It could be tendinitis—but thankfully there are home remedies for tendinitis that you can try without stepping foot outside your door.
Tendinitis is frustrating. That pain might be constant or it can come in waves. Sometimes it’s a subtle tinge, while other times it leaves you in severe pain. But by using home remedies to treat tendinitis, you can keep symptoms at bay and still enjoy the activities you love. In fact, treating tendinitis naturally is the best way to ensure limited pain and fewer flare-ups in the future.
What Is Tendinitis?
Tendons are the thick, fibrous chords that attach your muscles to bone. You’ve got tendons throughout your body and can experience tendinitis anywhere, but it typically affects your big lever joints that get the most use: knees, shoulders, elbows, wrists, ankles, and heels. When the tendons become irritated and inflamed enough to cause pain, it’s considered tendinitis.
Types of Tendinitis
Tendinitis has many names. Some of the more common ones you might be familiar with are:
- Tennis elbow
- Golfer’s elbow
- Pitcher’s shoulder
- Swimmer’s shoulder
- Jumper’s knee
In rare and intense cases, tendons can rupture and require surgery, but most of the time tendinitis can be treated naturally with a little relaxation, patience, and common sense!
What Does Tendinitis Pain Feel Like?
The pain comes in varying intensities, but is consistent in where it occurs and how it feels. Tendinitis comes with a pain and tenderness just outside the joint. It can sometimes be dull and in a concentrated area, while other times it can flare up and create a more intense pain that can impact both sides of the joint.
Tendinitis in the elbow, for example, can sometimes cause pain above, below, inside, and outside the joint. The pain can seem intense when the joint is being used and linger when it isn’t being used—making daily life far more uncomfortable than it should be.
Symptoms of Tendinitis
The symptoms of tendinitis tend to take place around the joint, where it attaches to the bone. Common symptoms include dull aches that occur mainly when moving or putting pressure on the affected area, tenderness, and perhaps some minor swelling. You may feel limited strength in the area or be unable to achieve a full range of motion in the joint.
Common Causes of Tendinitis
Tendinitis can transpire after a long time (sometimes years) of performing a particular movement. In some cases, it might be the result of a sudden injury, but this is very uncommon.
Regular Repetitive Exercise
Most people who exercise regularly, for example, experience tendinitis. This is because they do multiple repetitions and place stress on their joints. As you may have noticed, many of the common synonyms for tendinitis involve the names of sports and physical activities. But that doesn’t mean tendinitis doesn’t affect people who don’t exercise.
Occupations Requiring Repetitive Motions
People who have physically demanding jobs or hobbies and are required to perform similar motions all day—like picking up boxes or typing at a computer—are just as likely to experience pain resulting from inflamed and irritated tendons.
Like many physical ailments, your risk for tendinitis increases as you age. Because age typically means less flexibility—especially if you don’t stretch or exercise—there is a higher likelihood your tendons will have a reduced response to stress and be more susceptible to injury. In addition to mere physicality, age also means you’ve been using your joints and tendons longer than a younger person has.
Finally, if you’ve done a lot of golfing, baseball, basketball, bowling, tennis, swimming, weight lifting, or running, you might also be paying for it with tendinitis. But don’t worry, tendinitis doesn’t mean you have to give up your passions and hobbies—it just means you have to know how to treat it at home!
Home Remedies for Tendinitis
Fortunately, most cases of tendinitis can be treated naturally at home. It’s very uncommon that a medical professional is required. In extreme cases, physiotherapy might be recommended, but all you may need to do is practice some healing techniques at home.
The treatments for tendinitis range from physical activity to diet and supplementation. Because tendinitis is an inflammatory condition, looking for ways to limit inflammation and open up blood flow are good ways to loosen up and limit pain.
As with many sports-related or physical injuries resulting from wear and tear, the RICE treatment method is the first line of defense for taking care of painful bouts of tendinitis. RICE stands for:
Let’s take a closer look at how using and repeating these actions can help relieve the pain:
If you’re experiencing pain around your joints, eliminate the opportunity for it to worsen by giving it some rest. When your body is overworked it can start to hurt, limit mobility, and ultimately lower your quality of life. If your shoulder tendinitis is flaring up, for example, sit the weekend out with your golf buddies or don’t go for your weekly swim. Use the time to rest and recover, using the affected area as little as possible. Now, you don’t have to spend your days in bed, but instead use the affected area sparingly without applying too much stress to it.
Tendinitis is an inflammatory condition, which means the affected area is full of blood and can get warm. Try applying ice to the area to cool it down and limit inflammation. Cycle ice packs on and off the area in 20-minute periods throughout the day. You can use ice, frozen peas, or ice packs. You can also give yourself an ice massage by freezing water in a plastic foam cup so you can hold it as you massage the ice directly to your skin.
Swelling can impact range of motion of your joints, so try compressing the area until swelling has gone down. Use a tensor wrap, a bandage, or another mechanism to apply pressure to the area. This should bring down swelling.
If you’re experiencing tendinitis in your knee, keep it elevated above your heart to limit blood flow to the area. Grab a book and settle down on the sofa until swelling has subsided.
As important as rest is to treating tendinitis, too much rest can result in greater stiffness and susceptibility to injury. Therefore, rest periods need to be interspersed with activity periods. Include a stretching routine to perform the day following a bout of intense pain, or do the routine daily if you have moderate or light pain.
Alternative Remedies for Tendinitis
5. Transverse Friction Massage
Transverse friction massages focus on working deep tissue in the affected area, perpendicular to the direction of the tendons. It may relieve pain in people suffering from tendinitis by helping to improve blood flow and reduce the likelihood of scar tissue formation in connective tissue.
Studies have shown it can be effective in treating tendonitis, but not any better than ultrasound or even ice treatment. The long-term effect of treatment, however, still needs more study. This method of treatment needs to be performed by a licensed practitioner in order to be done safely and correctly. Talking to a physiotherapist or trained, licensed massage therapist is your best option to find quality treatment.
Acupuncture is well-studied and proven to help with a variety of pain causes, including tendinitis. Plenty of research suggests it is effective for treating short-term pain from tennis elbow, and there is little reason to believe it would not have similar effects for other locations on the body.
Acupuncture works to relieve blocked energy pathways in the body, known as Meridians. This traditional Chinese medicine approach works to restore these pathways by unblocking them with specific needle placement. A more modern perspective is that acupuncture may release natural pain-relieving opioids to calm the sympathetic nervous system. Whatever the mechanism, acupuncture seems to be effective for pain treatment.
For the best treatment, seek out a certified and licensed acupuncture practitioner. You can find one in your area by visiting the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) web site.
7. Wear a Splint or Brace
Providing some extra support around the tendons may also help relieve or limit pain in the affected area. Wearing a splint, brace, or bandage can help isolate the area and prevent overburden round the joint/tendons. This can help reduce pain and swelling and promote healing.
Exercises for Common Types of Tendinitis
1. Tennis Elbow
There are some exercises for tendinitis that can stretch and strengthen the muscles around your elbow and may prevent, or at least relieve, elbow pain. If you’re trying them and they are not working, talking to your doctor or a physiotherapist can help.
- Wrist flexor stretch: Hold your arm out straight with your palm facing up. Use your other hand to pull your fingers back towards you until you can feel your forearm stretch. Hold for 15 seconds.
- Finger stretch: Pull your fingers to your thumb and put a small rubber band around them. Open your hand against the resistance, then close.
- Wrist flexor strengthening: Grab a can of beans and sit down with your arm supported on your thigh, a table, or another flat surface—your hand should be hanging off the edge. Hold the beans with your palm facing up and curl your wrist up. It’s a like a bicep curl for your wrist.
2. Shoulder Tendinitis (Rotator Cuff Tendinitis)
If you’ve got tendinitis in your shoulder, there are some easy stretches to do at home. For a more serious injury, like a tear or rotator cuff injury, speak to a doctor or physiotherapist. Some stretches that may help include:
- Doorway stretch: Stand in an open doorway and grasp each side. Slowly move through the doorway until you feel the stretch. Keep your back straight and shift your bodyweight onto your toes.
- Lawn mower pull: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and place a band under the opposite foot of the injured shoulder. Hold the other end of the band with your injured hand and pull up across the body.
- High-to-low rows: Set a band to a fixed structure at or above shoulder height. Get down on one knee (the opposite knee of your injured arm) and hold the band with your arm outstretched. Keeping your back straight, pull your elbow back towards you.
- Side-lying external rotation: Lie on the non-injured side. Bend the elbow of your injured arm 90-degrees so it’s across your abdomen, and rotate it externally (up) until it becomes strenuous. Use a light weight if needed.
3. Wrist Tendinitis
The exercises for tennis elbow can also be applied to treat tendinitis in the wrist. Additionally, you can try:
- Rolling your wrists: Roll them clockwise, then counter clockwise.
- Wrist extension: With your arm outstretched and palms facing down, use your other hand to gently pull the fingers back towards your arm. It is the opposite of the extension movement covered in the elbow section.
- Tendon gliding: Start by folding your fingers so they touch the top of your palm. Hold a few seconds before opening your hand wide, straightening your fingers. Next, close your hand into a fist and hold for a few seconds. Release and straighten your fingers. Now make an L-shape with the fingers, keeping the thumb tucked to the index finger. Your fingers should be perpendicular to the palm. Hold for a few seconds and release. Next, fold fingers down to touch the base of your palm.
4. Knee Tendinitis (Patellar Tendinitis)
Knee tendinitis, or “jumper’s knee,” can be treated in the early stages with:
- Standing hamstring stretch: Place the heel of your injured leg on a surface (like a stool) about 15 inches high. Keep your leg straight and bend forward at the hips, until a mild stretch is felt at the back of the thigh. Avoid rolling your shoulders and bending at the waist.
- Quadriceps stretch: Stand an arm’s length from a wall with the injured side furthest from the wall. Brace yourself by keeping one hand against the wall. With the other hand, grasp the ankle on the injured leg and pull your heel towards your butt. You should feel a stretch in the front of your thigh.
- Side-lying leg lift: Lie on your uninjured side and tighten the thigh muscles on your injured side. Lift the leg eight to 10 inches off your other leg, keeping it straight. Lower it slowly.
Diet Remedies: Foods to Eat and Avoid for Tendinitis
The food you eat can play a role in tendinitis by encouraging or discouraging inflammation. Eating a nutritious diet high in the following foods can help you battle inflammation and perhaps improve pain caused by tendinitis:
Tendinitis Diet: Foods to Eat
- Leafy greens: Leafy greens are high in antioxidants that battle inflammation. Make sure half of your plate is filled with vegetables, such as spinach, kale, and broccoli.
- Berries: Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries can all help aid in recovery and fight inflammation. They are rich in vitamin C, which can help strengthen tissue and fight damage caused by free radicals. Some other foods with vitamin C include bell peppers and citrus fruit.
- Lean protein: Fresh, unprocessed protein sources like fish, poultry, eggs, and game meats are nutrient rich, which aids in recovery and promotes muscle maintenance. Wild fish is the best source of omega-3 fatty acids, while other protein sources are rich in vitamins and minerals that can help build and repair body tissue.
- Potassium and magnesium: Food and beverages like coconut water, avocados, green veggies, and bananas are all rich in potassium, which can help speed up healing. Magnesium is found in many of these same items, and helps promote circulation to fight inflammation and encourage recovery.
- Bone broth: Bone broth should be a part of any diet for tendinitis. It contains collagen, which can help build and restore strength in your tendons.
Tendinitis Diet: Foods to Avoid
On the other hand, you’ll want to limit your intake of foods that promote inflammation and slow healing. These items include:
- Alcohol: Alcohol can promote inflammation that worsens tendinitis and heavy drinking can promote bone loss. Inflammation promotes pain in the area, so limiting alcohol intake can potentially decrease the frequency and severity of symptoms.
- Overeating sugar: Eating too much sugar or refined grains can increase systemic inflammation that ultimately decreases your ability to heal and reduce pain. A side effect of too much sugar is weight gain, which can worsen tendinitis, particularly in the knees.
- Too much salt: Too much salt, which is typically found in processed foods, can lead to an electrolyte imbalance. Potassium, in particular, is negatively impacted by a major sodium presence and it may limit your body’s ability to process nutrients required for healing.
- Hydrogenated oils: Hydrogenated oils—also found in processed food—lead to inflammation that promotes pain and limits healing ability.
Don’t Let Tendinitis Hold You Back
Tendinitis can be inconvenient, painful, and sideline you from the things you enjoy—but not permanently. Try these home remedies to rest and heal your sore joints so you can get back out and at it.
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