Tendinitis is an inflammation of flexible bands called tendons, usually in the wrists, elbows, shoulders, hips, knees, or ankles.

Bill's Story

Bill is a 42-year-old weekend athlete. He has played basketball since he was in high school and now enjoys playing on the weekends with a few of his friends at a community recreation center. He tries to exercise during the week but is often too busy with work and family to do so. He is playing in a Saturday night game when he suddenly feels a pulling sensation and severe pain in his left ankle. The pain is so bad that he cannot walk or put any weight on that foot. His wife takes him to the emergency room where the physician diagnoses tendinitis of the Achilles tendon.

What Is Tendinitis?

Tendinitis, also called tendonitis, is inflammation * of the connective tissue * (tendons). A tendon is a flexible band of fibrous tissue that connects muscles to bones. Tendons are important in movement because they transmit the pull from the muscle to the bone. Tendons are located throughout the body in the hands, wrists, elbows, shoulders, hips, knees, ankles, and feet. The smallest tendons are found in the hand and are responsible for the movement of the fingers. One of the largest, the Achilles tendon, is found in the ankle. Common locations of tendinitis are the shoulder (rotator cuff), wrist (carpal tunnel syndrome), elbow (tennis elbow, golfer's elbow), knee, posterior tibial tendon (shin splints), and ankle (Achilles tendon).

How Common Is Tendinitis?

Tendinitis is fairly common in many environments. For example, in the work environment, people who use computers all the time may get carpal tunnel syndrome, or tendinitis of the wrist. Tendinitis is so common in sports that names for tendinitis reflect the specific sport played, for example, tennis elbow, golfer's elbow, pitcher's shoulder, and swimmer's shoulder.

Rotator cuff tendinitis affects the tendons and muscles that help move the shoulder joint. It causes shoulder pain at the tip of the shoulder and the upper, outer arm.

Rotator cuff tendinitis affects the tendons and muscles that help move the shoulder joint. It causes shoulder pain at the tip of the shoulder and the upper, outer arm. The pain can be aggravated by reaching, pushing, pulling, lifting, raising the arm above shoulder level, or lying on the affected side.
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What Are the Causes of Tendinitis?

Athletes Who Have Had Tendinitis

Who Is at Risk for Tendinitis?

Tendinitis is most common in people who are middle aged, that is, 40 to 60 years old.

What Are the Signs of Tendinitis?

The primary signs of tendinitis are pain or tenderness over the affected tendon, pain on movement of the muscles and tendons involved, and mild swelling.

How Is Tendinitis Diagnosed and Treated?


The healthcare provider obtains a health history specifically asking about symptoms experienced; what the person was doing when the pain occurred; whether the pain went away when they stopped the activity; what specific movements cause the pain; and whether they have had the problem previously and, if so, what was done for it then. A physical examination follows where the healthcare provider touches specific areas of the tendon to determine which tendon is affected.

X-rays may be done to ensure that the symptoms aren't from a broken bone. Other studies that may be done are ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging * , especially if the condition is related to an injury.


Treatment is focused on symptom relief and return to normal activity. Usual treatments are as follows:

If the tendinitis does not get better with this treatment, injection of corticosteroids * into the affected area may relieve the pain associated with tendinitis. If the injection does not relieve symptoms or if the tendon is torn, surgery may be required to repair the tendon.

Can Tendinitis Be Prevented?

Tendinitis can be prevented by:

See also Carpal Tunnel Syndrome • Knee Injuries: Overview • Repetitive Stress Syndrome • Shin Splints • Sports Injuries: Overview • Tennis Elbow (Epicondylitis)


Books and Articles

Wilson, David. Ten Ways to Stop the Pain of Tendonitis Without Surgery or Steroids: The Definitive Guide for Sufferers. Amazon Digital Services, 2015.


Cluett, Jonathan. “Tendonitis.” http://orthopedics.about.com/cs/sportsmedicine/a/tendonitis.htm (accessed April 4, 2016).

Kadakia, Anish R. “Achilles Tendinitis.” OrthoInfo. http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00147 (accessed April 4, 2016).

MedlinePlus. “Tendinitis.” U.S. National Library of Medicine. https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/tendinitis.html (accessed April 4, 2016).

Merck Manual: Consumer Version. “Lateral Epicondylitis (Tennis Elbow).” http://www.merckmanuals.com/home/injuries-and-poisoning/sports-injuries/lateral-epicondylitis (accessed April 4, 2016).

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. “Bursitis and Tendinitis.” http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Bursitis/default.asp (accessed April 4, 2016).


American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. 9400 West Higgins Rd., Rosemont, IL 60018. Toll-free: 847-823-7186. Website: www.aaos.org (accessed April 4, 2016).

American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine. 9400 W. Higgins Rd., Ste. 300, Rosemont, IL 60018. Toll-free: 847-292-4900. Website: www.sportsmed.org (accessed April 4, 2016).

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. 1 AMS Circle, Bethesda, MD 20892-3675. Toll-free: 877-22-NIAMS, 877-226-4267. Website: www.niams.nih.gov (accessed April 4, 2016).

* inflammation (in-fla-MAY-shun) is the body's reaction to irritation, infection, or injury that often involves swelling, pain, redness, and warmth.

* connective tissue helps hold the body together, and is found in skin, joints, and bones.

* magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a diagnostic procedure that uses magnetic waves, instead of x-rays, to scan the body and produce detailed pictures of the body's structures.

* corticosteroids (kor-tih-ko-STIRoyds) are manmade versions of chemical substances made by the adrenal glands. They help relieve inflammation.

  This information is not a tool for self-diagnosis or a substitute for professional care.