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Tendinitis and Tenosynovitis

Painful inflammation of a tendon (tendinitis) or of a tendon sheath (tenosynovitis)

  • More common in adults
  • More common in athletes
  • Gender and genetics are not significant factors

Tendinitis is inflammation of a tendon, the fibrous cord that attaches a muscle to a bone. Tenosynovitis is inflammation of the sheath of tissues that surrounds a tendon. These two conditions usually occur together. Tendons around the shoulder, elbow, wrist, fingers, thigh, knee, or back of the heel are most commonly affected.

Both conditions may be caused by injury of a particular tendon or, rarely, by an infection. Inflammation of the Achilles tendon between the heel and the calf may be the result of a sports injury or of wearing ill-fitting shoes. Tenosynovitis may be associated with rheumatoid arthritis. In some cases, the cause is unknown.

What are the symptoms?

You may notice the following symptoms in the affected area, particularly during movement:

  • Pain and/or mild swelling.

  • Stiffness and restricted movement in the affected area.

  • Warm, red skin over the tendon.

  • A tender lump over the tendon.

Occasionally, you may feel a crackling sensation (known as crepitus) when the affected tendon moves.

What might be done?

Diagnosis is based on the symptoms and a physical examination. Your doctor will treat any underlying disorder. To reduce the pain and inflammation, he or she may recommend nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. You may also require an injection of a corticosteroid drug (see Locally acting corticosteroids) into the tendon sheath. If the condition is due to an infection, a course of antibiotics will be prescribed. In some cases, a tendon will heal more quickly if it is splinted. Tendinitis and tenosynovitis improve with treatment.

From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.

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