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Tendonitis is the irritation or inflammation of a tendon: a tough piece of connective tissue that attaches muscle to bone. It can occur during a joint injury, but also frequently occurs due to minor but repetitive motions that irritate the tendon over and over not allowing the tendon to recover and adapt before it is performed again (an overuse injury).


Tendonitis can happen in any tendon, but it’s most common in areas and joints in the body where repetitive movement occurs:

  • knees

  • shoulders

  • elbows

  • wrists

  • ankles


For example, “tennis elbow” is a type of tendonitis that is commonly caused by repetitive motions of the arm or wrist, like the swinging of a tennis racket. It can also happen due to repetitive movements from activities of daily living, like scrubbing floors, raking, shovelling, or occupational activities like painting, using power tools, or carpentry.


Tendonitis causes pain, tenderness, weakness, and sometimes mild swelling in the area of the afflicted joint, usually around where the tendon attaches to bone, and can also affect range of motion in the joint. Age is a risk factor for tendonitis, since our tendons become less elastic and less able to handle stress as we get older. Overuse and overloading joints without a proper warm-up (or after not having done an activity for a prolonged period of time) can also increase the risk of developing tendonitis, since the tendon is not prepared for the amount or frequency of pull that is placed on it.  Think of the muscle being stronger than what holds it in place and those attachments starting to fail. 


Recognizing the signs of tendonitis early on is important since, depending on the severity, rest and allowing the tendon time to repair itself can avoid more serious complications or other conditions as your body tries to work around the problem.  For example it is common for people who have a long standing tendonitis in the shoulder to develop a frozen shoulder which can take a long time to resolve.

Tendonitis Treatment

What can physiotherapy do?

Your physiotherapist will assess the range of motion, strength, stability, and mechanics of your joint to isolate which tendon(s) are involved and the probable cause. They will outline a treatment plan that aims to make it feel better today and prevent it from coming back tomorrow. 


Treatments involve restoring normal function of the joint that the tendon is involved in moving, using manual therapy and exercise, and local modalities such as:

  • Stabilization of postural musculature.

  • Mobilization of abnormal motion of the associated joint

  • Addressing any interconnection of the spine and the function the affected limb

  • IMS/Acupuncture

  • Ultrasound

  • Shockwave

  • Cryotherapy

  • KT Taping to help improve positional sensation at the affected joint.


When the area is responding well, we will direct you to exercises in order to recondition the area and make it more resilient for a sustainable positive outcome that allows you to participate in your sport or the game of life without restriction. We will look at the activities that are important to you and help design an exercise program that addresses the specific needs of this activity. We will also look at long term strategies to protect the tendon from further harm when you are performing activities that tend to put the tendon under load. 

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