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Tennis Elbow, Pitcher’s Shoulder, Jumper’s Knee: What Causes Tendonitis?

October 2, 2019

Man holding painful elbow Tendonitis

We sometimes use the suffix “itis” in a joking way to describe someone who has unusual tendencies, obsessions, or aversions. For example, someone who thinks computers are the answer to every problem might have computeritis. A manager who wants to have nonstop, pointless meetings could have a bad case of meetingitis.

When it comes to medical conditions, “itis” means inflammation. Bursitis is inflammation of the bursa. Colitis is inflammation of the colon. Bronchitis is inflammation in the bronchial tubes. The fact is, inflammation is the root cause of most diseases and chronic illnesses in the human body, and it’s often caused by poor lifestyle and health choices.

Tendonitis, or inflammation of the tendon, is another example. This inflammation causes pain in the tendons, the strong, thick cords of collagen tissue that connect bone to muscle. In addition to a dull ache during movement, the most common symptoms are tenderness and mild swelling. Tendonitis most frequently occurs in the shoulders, elbows, wrists, knees and heels.

When a muscle contracts, it pulls on a bone to enable movement. The function of the tendon is to transfer the force of the muscle contraction to the bone. Tendonitis makes movement more difficult and painful, which affects how you work, play sports, or perform everyday tasks.

We already know that tendonitis refers to a tendon in an inflamed state. But what causes the inflammation?

Overuse and Repetitive Movements

As with many painful conditions in the soft tissue, tendonitis is most commonly caused by overuse and repetitive movements. For example, tendonitis in the rotator cuff tendon can be caused by repetitive lifting at work. Tennis elbow, golfer’s elbow, pitcher’s shoulder, swimmer’s shoulder, and jumper’s knee are all names of tendonitis conditions.

While you work, if you to sit or move awkwardly, reach overhead frequently, or exert yourself in a forceful way, the risk of tendonitis is higher. Gardening, shoveling, painting, cleaning, and other seemingly normal activities can cause tendonitis. Of course, poor posture and poor conditioning before any of these activities increase the risk of pain or injury. Conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, gout, and thyroid disorders, as well as certain antibiotics, can also contribute to tendonitis.

Trauma and Injury

A number of accidents, injuries and other traumatic events can cause tendonitis. Sports injuries, auto accidents, falls, collisions, sudden twists, and forceful movements lead to a number of physical problems, including tendonitis. The cumulative effect of smaller traumas, such as a football player being tackled or blocked repeatedly, can result in tendonitis over time.

Deficiencies in the Blood

Tendonitis often occurs in what are called watershed zones in the tendon tissue. These areas are the furthest away from the blood supply and sometimes don’t get the oxygen and nutrients they need. Watershed zones in the tendons are susceptible to injury, especially in the Achilles tendon, rotator cuff tendon, elbow, and posterior tibial tendon (connecting the calf muscle to the inside of the foot).

As you age, tendons tolerate less stress and are more susceptible to strain and even tearing. If left untreated, tendonitis can increase the risk of a tendon rupture, as well as tendinosis, which involves degeneration and abnormal new blood vessel growth. In the next post, we’ll discuss how we diagnose and treat tendonitis at Natural Healthcare Center.

Dr. Proodian

Dr. James Proodian is an accomplished chiropractic physician, health educator, and professional public speaker who founded Proodian Healthcare Family of Companies to help people feel better, function better, and live longer. His expertise is in identifying clinical imbalances and restoring the body to health and functionality. Contact: jproodian@naturalhc.com or (732) 222‑2219.