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Tendinitis is a painful form of inflammation that occurs following a tendon injury. Hard, fibrous tendons connect the muscles to bones. When they contract, they pull on the muscle and cause it to contract. They also keep the joint stable, which means that injuries can have serious consequences.

One serious potential consequence of tendinitis is the tendon rupturing (tearing), so recognizing signs of the inflammation early, and seeking guidance and care from a doctor or physical therapist, can help prevent complications.

Pain

Pain is the most common symptom of tendinitis. Many people experience a persistent dull, aching sensation near the stressed tendon, especially if the condition is left untreated. The pain is more pronounced when the tendon is moving (such as typing, in tendinitis of the wrist). Sharp, shooting pains are more common when the affected tendon has been aggravated by daily activities and ordinary movements.

Medical professionals typically recommend nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, which are available over the counter, for mild to moderate inflammation, and corticosteroid injections into the insertion point of the tendon for more severe symptoms.

Senior Asian woman rubbing her hands in discomfort, suffering from arthritis in her hand while sitting on sofa at home. Elderly and health issues concept AsiaVision / Getty Images

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Stiffness

Tendinitis frequently causes pain and stiffness. Prolonged inflammation can make the affected limb feel lazy, heavy, numb, or difficult to move. Stiffness is most common in the morning or after several hours of sleep or sedentary activity. Stretching or motion usually restores movement. However, persistent stiffness could be a sign of severe inflammation. If stiffness persists without relieve from gentle movement, see a doctor.

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Swelling

Tendinitis may also cause mild swelling. Since tendons are connective tissues, the inflammation can be concealed deep under layers of skin and muscle. To reduce pain and swelling, experts typically recommend icing the affected area for 20 minutes several times a day—always wrap the ice pack in a towel, though; never apply ice to bare skin. In some cases, warm compresses are helpful. Gentle massage can also help reduce swelling.

If symptoms worsen from hot or cold treatment, stop the therapy immediately and consult a physician.

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Tenderness

Similar to pain, inflammation can make the area surrounding the tendon tender to the point where pressure from clothes or bedding becomes uncomfortable. To reduce tenderness, wear loose-fitting clothes and elevate the affected area while resting. Over-the-counter pain relievers can reduce tenderness.

Luckily, in most cases, this is one of the milder symptoms of tendinitis and a good indicator to start taking more breaks before the symptoms worsen.

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Redness and Warmth

Another sign of inflammation is redness and warmth. In some cases, it may feel like the affected tendon is radiating heat. The tissue may also pop or squeak when moved or massaged. Like pain and other symptoms, warmth and redness usually develop or intensify when the area around the tendon has been irritated by excessive movement.

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Itching

Itching is an unexpected symptom of tendinitis and is due to underlying inflammation in the tendon. In people with gout, uric acid crystals can accumulate in the joints and extremities, which can cause tendon pain, irritation, and inflammation. Additionally, persistent friction and pressure may aggravate this symptom of tendinitis.

Black man scratching itchy arm in a park Pheelings Media / Getty Images

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Weakness

Injured muscles and tendons cause pain and weakness. These are signs that the body needs rest and rehabilitation. To prevent further injury, avoid using the affected limb and limit activities that increase pain, especially lifting or repetitive movements. In cases of moderate or severe tendinitis, always check with your doctor or physical therapist before resuming sports activities.

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Decreased Mobility

Inflammation from tendinitis frequently results in localized mobility issues. For example, patellar tendinitis, which affects the knee, may make it difficult to go up or down stairs. Achilles tendinitis can lead to difficulty walking, running, or jumping, and rotator cuff tendinitis, which affects the shoulder, can make it difficult to change clothes or lift the arms overhead.

Athletes and people who develop tennis elbow may have difficulty opening doorknobs and jars or shaking hands since those tendons are vital for these movements.

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Bruising

Bruising is not typically a symptom of tendinitis, but it can occur if there has been a significant injury to the tendon. If the inflammation is severe or associated with an injury or condition such as tenosynovitis (inflammation of the lining of the tendon sheath around a tendon), there might be visible bruising.

This could be due to blood vessels in or around the tendon rupturing as a result of the strain, overuse, or direct impact.

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Increased Symptoms at Night

Tendinitis symptoms may become more pronounced at night for some people. This could be due to a number of factors, including the general decrease in activity. During the day, regular movement can help keep joints lubricated and reduce stiffness, but at night, the prolonged period of inactivity can result in increased stiffness and discomfort.

Moreover, lying in certain positions might put additional pressure on the inflamed tendon, exacerbating the pain. It's also possible that the lack of distractions at night might make someone more aware of their pain.

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Disclaimer

This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.