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 tendinitis treatments that you can do naturally in the comfort of your own home.
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?
Tendinitis is a rather common condition that affects people who play—or have played— sports, work in manual labor or have a job or hobby that requires them to consistently perform the same motion. Some examples could be typing at a computer, thrusting a shovel into the ground and tossing earth aside, picking up boxes in a warehouse, throwing a ball or pounding a hammer. If you perform these activities enough times, you’ll likely notice pain surrounding the supporting joint.
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.
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.
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 require surgery, but most of the time tendinitis can be treated naturally with a little relaxation, patience and common sense!
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.
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. 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. If you talk to any veteran weight lifters and ask what they think about the younger men throwing around heavy weight in the gym—you’ll likely get a speech about how they used to do the same thing, until tendinitis slowed them down!
What kind of work you do (or did) and the hobbies you enjoy can also increase your risk for tendinitis. If you spent years doing repetitive motions, bending in awkward positions, reaching over your head or using force, you might also notice some increased pain.
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 you 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.
Some of the stretches you can perform are:
- Forearm flex: This stretch is designed to help relieve pain in the wrist. Sit or stand with one arm outstretched in front of you with your palm facing the floor. Grab your fingers with your other hand and gently pull them back until you feel a stretch. Hold it for five to 10 seconds and repeat. The joint should limber up as you perform more repetitions.
- Palm press: This will help stretch the tendons in your wrist and elbow. Put your palms together in front of you with your fingers pointing up. From about chin level, begin lowering your palms—keeping them pressed together—until you reach a point where you can no longer keep them attached.
Aside from stretches, you can also work on taking the joints through their full range of motion. Slowly extend and retract affected joints, like the knees and elbows, until they feel loose and the pain subsides. For your wrist, shoulders and ankles, make slow circles to get the greatest benefit, making the circles larger as you go along.
One of the keys to tendinitis is prevention, and this can be done by executing proper form when performing tasks. Whether you’re running, lifting weights, swimming or swinging a tennis racquet, there are ways to do it without putting too much stress on the joints. Begin every workout or activity session with an adequate warm-up. Getting the joints nice and loose before conducting physical activity is one of the best ways to relieve tendinitis.
Eat a Diet That Limits Inflammation
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:
- 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 aid in recovery and promote 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.
On the other hand, you’ll want to limit your intake of foods that promote inflammation and slow healing. These items include:
- Sodium (found in high amounts in processed, packaged goods)
- Sugar and refined grains (processed foods, candy, soda, white bread)
- Hydrogenated oils and fried foods
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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Sources for Today’s Article:
“Tendinitis,” Mayo Clinic web site, November 14, 2014; http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/tendinitis/basics/definition/con-20020309.
Barron, B., “Stretches and Exercises for Tendonitis,” Livestrong.com, last updated March 26, 2011; http://www.livestrong.com/article/388757-stretches-exercises-for-tendonitis/, last accessed October 14, 2015.
“Foods that fight inflammation,” Harvard Women’s Health Watch, 2014 Jul; 21(11):1, 7.