Tendinitis is the inflammation or irritation of a tendon- the thick, fibrous cords that attach muscles to bones. Tendinitis causes pain and tenderness just outside a joint. While tendinitis can occur in any of the body’s tendons, it’s most common in the shoulders, elbows, wrists and heels. Tendinitis symptoms typically include pain (usually a dull ache), tenderness, and mild swelling at the point where the tendon attaches to the bone.
Common names for tendinitis are tennis elbow, golfer’s elbow, pitcher’s shoulder, swimmer’s shoulder, and jumper’s knee. From this list it’s easy to see that tendinitis typically develops from the stress of a repetitive movement over time. Most people develop tendinitis because of jobs, sports or hobbies that involve repetitive motions, which aggravate the tendons needed to perform the tasks, although tendinitis can also be caused by a sudden injury. Age can also play a factor in tendinitis because as we get older, our tendons become less flexible, making them more prone to injury.
Most cases of tendinitis can be successfully treated with rest and self-care. If symptoms persist for more than a few days and interfere with day-to-day activities, your doctor may recommend medications to reduce the pain and inflammation. Injections of cortisone medication around a tendon may also be recommended to reduce inflammation and help ease pain but repeated injections may weaken a tendon, increasing the risk of tendon rupture. Tendon rupture is a much more serious problem that may require surgical repair. Without proper treatment, tendinitis can develop into a chronic problem and increase the risk of developing into tendon rupture.
Acupuncture can be a great option for resolving tendinitis problems and promoting proper healing. In Chinese medicine, most musculo-skeletal disorders have some relevant underlying imbalance or contributing lifestyle factor. Understanding a person’s general health gives an acupuncturist insight into the internal imbalances that can contribute to injury. Lifestyle can play a role, whether it be our occupation, the exercise or sports we choose, or our nutrition and diet. Chinese medicine also considers the role of emotion and thought in health, as they can be either the cause or the symptom of an internal balance.
With tendinitis, and all types of musculo-skeletal injuries, pain is caused by stagnation of qi-energy and blood. Acupuncture treatment focuses on removing the blockage and helping the energy and blood to flow again in order to remove pain and resolve the symptoms of the injury. This also helps to promote proper and complete healing.
In addition, we look at what underlying factors have influenced health and weakened the joint or made it vulnerable to injury. These causes can be external (such as exposure to the elements or an external trauma or blow to the area) or internal (caused by an imbalance in the body’s normal functioning due to our genetics or our lifestyle). By also treating these underlying factors, we are can strengthen the injured area and improve health, with the goal of preventing future reoccurrence.
James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, Kelowna, BC.