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Family Foot & Ankle

Dealing with Tendonitis

A motion as simple as taking a few steps or raising your arm requires a lot of coordination between many systems. With over 200 bones and around 900 ligaments and 4,000 tendons in the human body, there are a lot of different tissues working together (and a lot that can go wrong). One of the more common problems is tendonitis.

This frustrating condition is the result of inflamed, or otherwise irritated tendons. Over time tendons can be stretched and torn due to repetitive activities such as playing sports, running, gardening or shoveling, carpentry work—basically any activity that involves making the same or similar motions over and over. Weekend athletes who are sedentary during the week but overexert themselves during competition are especially susceptible. Active adults over 40 are at the highest risk, since tendons tend to stiffen with age and lose the ability to flex without tearing.

Other potential causes of tendonitis include an acute injury (such as an ankle sprain), stress from a primary condition such as arthritis, or mechanical defects in foot shape or walking gait that force tendons to take on extra weight or pressure in order to compensate.

There are three major symptoms associated with this condition: pain, swelling, and stiffness. The discomfort is usually described as either a sharp or burning sensation that worsens during activity and decreases during rest. A few days or weeks after you first notice a problem, you may discover a bump or puffing around the affected area. Finally, stiffness reduces your flexibility and limits your pain-free range of motion.

Broadly speaking, dealing with tendonitis falls into two categories: managing and alleviating symptoms, and fixing any underlying causes to prevent future problems.

When pain strikes, the best treatment method is usually to simply rest. Discontinue whatever activity has been causing your discomfort and give your tendon a chance to heal. This may be used in combination with ice (to reduce swelling) or, if your doctor approves, over-the-counter anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen. If pain persists, or you observe other symptoms such as fever or loss of motion, we can provide assistance with more aggressive treatments such as steroid injections, physical therapy, or in the most severe (and very rare) cases, surgery.

There may be further steps you can take to prevent future tendon injuries as well. If the core problem is related to faulty foot structure, a custom-made orthotic from Family Foot and Ankle Center can help alleviate the excess pressure on the tendon.

A few lifestyle changes can also be beneficial. Since this ailment tends to strike most often when you try to do too much all at once, switch to a more consistent and varied exercise routine that incorporates some “off days” of cross-training in exercises with different motions and lower-impact activities like cycling or weight training—this helps you maintain your fitness level while giving aching tendons some time to rest.

If you’re a little out of shape or trying a new activity for the first time, remember to take it slow. Give your muscles and tendons a chance to get accustomed to the new tasks, only gradually increasing the duration or intensity from week to week. This is especially the case if your activity involves repetitive motions, such as running.

Family Foot and Ankle Center is your home for all foot pain treatment and prevention, including tendonitis. If aching tissues are keeping you from sports or hobbies, or even preventing you from accomplishing daily tasks, don’t just sit around in pain—let us help. With trained experts and state-of-the-art technology, we’ll help you identify any troublesome conditions that may be at the source of your discomfort and set you down the path to recovery. Call (513) 728-4800 for one of our five Ohio-based offices, (859) 282-1572 for our office in Florence, KY, or request an appointment online today.

Dr. Cynthia Miller
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Dr. Cynthia Miller is a board certified podiatrist who has been established in the Cincinnati area since 2004.