How Tendonitis Is Treated

In This Article

Treatment for tendonitis involves managing pain and inflammation in your injured tendon. Your treatment may include home remedies, like resting and icing the injury, as well as pain medication. While self care usually helps with tendonitis, you should see a doctor if your symptoms don’t improve, as prescription medicine, physical therapy, and, in rare cases, surgery may be needed.

Home Remedies and Lifestyle

Resting is often the first step in at-home treatment. Tendonitis can happen from an injury or from repetitive movement at a joint, like your shoulder, elbow, wrist, knee, or ankle. Whether you injured it playing tennis or gardening, you’ll need to avoid those activities while your tendon heals, usually for several weeks.

In the meantime, switch to other exercises and activities that don’t aggravate your injury but allow you to stay active. For example, if you usually go running for exercise, try a low-impact activity, like swimming or biking.  

In the days following your injury, your doctor may suggest using ice to relieve pain and swelling. You can apply ice for up to 20 minutes once or twice a day. (Remove the ice pack sooner if your skin starts to become numb.)

You can also try compression and elevation to see if it helps with pain. Wrap the area lightly with an elastic bandage, then elevate the area by propping it up with pillows. If the pain has lasted longer than a few days, you can try applying heat by using warm water or a heating pad.

These home remedies will help provide pain relief for many cases of tendonitis. However, if the pain is severe or doesn’t go away within a week, see your doctor for treatment.

Over-the Counter (OTC) Therapies

To help manage tendonitis pain, you can try using an over-the-counter (OTC) nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) such as Advil (ibuprofen) or Aleve (naproxen). Tylenol (acetaminophen) may also be used.

These medications may help decrease swelling, but they won’t reduce thickening of the tendon caused by chronic deterioration. You should let your doctor know if you need to use the over-the-counter medications for more than one month. 

Prescriptions

If your tendonitis symptoms aren’t managed with an NSAID, your doctor may consider using a corticosteroid injection to decrease inflammation and manage pain. Corticosteroids include Diprolene (betamethasone), Medrol (methylprednisolone), or Kenalog (triamcinolone). These injections are rarely given in the Achilles tendon because of the risk of rupturing the tendon.

Other drugs may be used depending on what’s causing your tendonitis. For example, Indocin (indomethacin) or Gloperba (colchicine) can help cases caused by gout.

Specialist Interventions and Surgery

If your tendonitis lasts longer than several weeks, your doctor may suggest seeing a specialist, such as a physical therapist, occupational therapist, or rheumatologist.

Among the services they can provide, these professionals may offer you:

  • A personalized exercise program to help you maintain your strength and range of motion in the affected area
  • Assistive devices, such as splints, braces, or slings, to allow the injured area to rest until the pain lessens
  • Orthotics or other pressure-relieving devices (for tendinitis around your foot)
  • Ways to modify your daily activities to prevent more damage to your tendons

Surgery is rarely needed for tendonitis, but it may be an option if the tendon tears or has significant damage. If the tendon is torn, an orthopedic surgeon can stitch the damaged ends together. If the tendon has been severely damaged, your surgeon may perform a tendon graft using a piece of tendon from another part of the body or an artificial tendon.

The location of a tendon may make surgery more challenging in some cases. For example, surgery on flexor tendons in the arm and hand tend to be more difficult because of the complexity of those tendons. 

Healing after surgery usually takes from six weeks to three months. You’ll probably need a splint or cast during this time. You’ll also work with a physical or occupational therapist to help you develop an exercise plan to help the tendon heal, limit scar tissue, and reduce stiffness in the surrounding tissue. 

Contact your doctor if notice any increasing stiffness or pain. While most tendon repair surgeries take a while to heal, they’re usually successful when you follow your doctor’s guidelines for therapy and care.

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Article Sources
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  2. Biundo J. Tendinitis and Tenosynovitis. Merck Manual Consumer Version. Updated April 2018. 

  3. American College of Rheumatology. Tendinitis (Bursitis). Updated March 2019.

  4. Arthritis Foundation. Tendinitis.

  5. National Institutes of Health. Tendon repair. MedlinePlus.Updated August 15, 2018.

  6. Hand tendon repair. NHS inform. Updated July 9, 2019.