I hate tendonitis and the misery that it brings. The loss of function, the psychological frustration that comes with having pain with motion, and visits to health professionals are annoyances that many of us who have tendonitis must endure.
Tendonitis is inflammation of a tendon that usually stems from repetitive stress or overuse. We commonly think of tendonitis stemming from high-level activities and sports, but in my opinion, tendonitis more often comes from other sources. Seemingly innocuous activities such as thumb swiping on a phone screen, typing, or even walking can also just as easily produce tendonitis. Patients are much more susceptible to tendonitis if they are already weak in the affected areas, but what we also need to realize is that even the most strong and fit individuals are not immune to overuse.
With tendonitis, I need my patients first and foremost to eliminate (at least temporarily) the activity that is the suspected cause.
If the contributory activity for rotator cuff tendonitis is tennis, the initial phase of treatment would almost certainly involve staying off the court and avoiding overhead motions for a period of time. Comparatively speaking, these patients are easier to work with because they do not absolutely have to be playing tennis. If a patient insists on “playing through” tendonitis despite my warnings, a referral to a psychologist should be in order.
If forearm tendonitis is caused largely by excessive keyboard typing and computer usage, we will have a much more difficult time with the healing process because of the patient’s need to work. It is not a pleasant conversation to have with a patient when you hand them a wrist immobilization splint to wear and tell them that they cannot use their right hand for a week. The patient will need to make immediate changes to his or her day that may not be conducive to productivity.
The take-home message here is simple. In addition to whatever other type of treatment that you may receive, you must allow for adequate healing time for tendonitis. This can be very frustrating, but it is necessary. This “rest time” can vary widely and can depend on several factors such as age, the overall health of the patient, or how long the tendonitis has been problematic.
One final thought… If you have experienced tendonitis and know what it feels like, use that experience to guide your decision-making. If you feel a light strained sensation in the wrist from typing, back off before it becomes something much harder to treat!
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