Natural Remedies for Tendonitis

With conditions that tend to recur, such as tendonitis, it's not uncommon to explore a variety of treatment options in an effort to find reliable symptom relief. Although certain natural remedies for tendonitis show some promise, so far, scientific support is lacking for the claim that any form of alternative medicine can treat the condition.

Nevertheless, some working to manage tendonitis may use the following natural remedies and note anecdotal benefits. If exploring such options interests you, it's a good idea to learn more about them and consult your healthcare provider before using them. And if you suspect tendonitis, but have not yet been formally diagnosed, seek a medical evaluation.

Tendonitis (a.k.a. tendinitis)—inflammation of the band of fibrous tissue that attaches muscles to bone—most commonly occurs around the elbows, shoulders, and knees, but it can also affect the wrists, hips, and heels. The condition causes pain and tenderness near the affected joint, which is worse with movement of that joint.

acupuncturist applying needle to elbow
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According to traditional Chinese medicine, pain is believed to result from blocked energy along invisible energy pathways of the body, which are unblocked when acupuncture needles are inserted into the skin along these meridians.

Acupuncture may release the body's natural pain-relieving opioids, send signals that calm the sympathetic nervous system, or trigger the release of brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) and hormones.

The treatment is, in fact, one of the better-studied remedies for pain, including the pain of tendonitis. Reviews of studies have found that it shows some evidence of reducing tennis elbow pain in the short term, but there's no evidence of long term relief.

However, another review of acupuncture for musculoskeletal pain came to a different conclusion when assessing the quality of the studies. If only those with a low risk of bias were included, the effect disappeared.

Be sure to speak with your healthcare provider before trying acupuncture. It does have some potential side effects and may not be safe if you have a bleeding disorder or are taking blood-thinning medication.

Transverse Friction Massage

Transverse friction massage is a massage technique that is sometimes used for tendonitis. The massage strokes used are deep and applied directly to the affected area, perpendicular to the direction of the tendon.

It is believed to help reduce pain, improve blood flow to the surrounding area, and prevent the formation of scar tissue and adhesions in the connective tissue.

A review in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews examined studies on transverse friction massage for lateral elbow tendinitis or knee tendinitis and concluded it was no more beneficial than other methods (such as physical therapy) for improving function, pain, or grip strength. The studies found were small and of low quality.

Massage therapy by a trained and licensed therapist is generally safe; common side effects (e.g., soreness, fatigue, pain) are usually temporary, and more significant ones (e.g., internal bleeding, nerve damage) usually only result when a therapist is not properly qualified.

While it may be fine for you to give it a try, there are some caveats to be mindful of. People with cancer, recent or unhealed fractures, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, deep vein thrombosis, cancer, recent heart attack, burns or open wounds, or who are pregnant should speak to their healthcare provider first.

Be sure that your massage therapist has your complete health history before you begin treatment.

In addition, friction massage should not be done over skin that is infected, broken, blistered, or has ulcerations. It should not be used for rheumatoid tendonitis, bursitis, nerve disorders, hematoma, or over areas where deep pressure could be harmful.

Other Purported Remedies

These herbal supplements and natural remedies have been used by some for tendonitis, but the evidence is lacking that they are effective.

  • White willow: The bark contains salicin, which has effects similar to aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs in pain relief and reducing inflammation.
  • Turmeric: Curcumin in turmeric is being studied for its healing effects, but so far there have only been animal studies on its use for tendinopathies.
  • Boswellia: Boswelic acid in this herbal extract has anti-inflammatory properties, but it has not been studied for tendinopathies in humans.
  • Bromelain: Found in pineapples, this enzyme has been studied in inflammatory conditions. However, there have been contradicting studies on its effects in tendinopathies.

These herbal supplements can interact with other medications you may be taking and may not be appropriate for individuals with various health conditions, of a certain age, or for whom other factors apply. Be sure to discuss them with your healthcare provider or pharmacist before you take them.

Dietary supplements are not subject to routine testing by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), so quality can vary.

A Word From Verywell

If you're considering the use of any form of alternative medicine for tendonitis, make sure to consult your healthcare provider first. Self-treating a condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences.

5 Sources
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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  2. Chang WD, Lai PT, Tsou YA. Analgesic effect of manual acupuncture and laser acupuncture for lateral epicondylalgia: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Chin Med. 2014;42(6):1301-14. doi:10.1142/S0192415X14500815

  3. Cox J, Varatharajan S, Côté P, Optima collaboration. Effectiveness of acupuncture therapies to manage musculoskeletal disorders of the extremities: A systematic review. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2016;46(6):409-29. doi:10.2519/jospt.2016.6270

  4. Loew LM, Brosseau L, Tugwell P, et al. Deep transverse friction massage for treating lateral elbow or lateral knee tendinitis. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2014;(11):CD003528. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD003528.pub2

  5. Fusini F, Bisicchia S, Bottegoni C, Gigante A, Zanchini F, Busilacchi A. Nutraceutical supplement in the management of tendinopathies: A systematic review. Muscles Ligaments Tendons J. 2016;6(1):48–57. doi:10.11138/mltj/2016.6.1.048

By Cathy Wong
Cathy Wong is a nutritionist and wellness expert. Her work is regularly featured in media such as First For Women, Woman's World, and Natural Health.