Tendinopathy and Tenosynovitis

Tendons are strong cords of tissue that connect muscles to bones. Tendinopathy is a general term for tendon conditions that involve pain and swelling. Tendonitis (one type of tendinopathy) is when a tendon is inflamed, causing swelling, pain, and discomfort.

A related problem is called tenosynovitis, which is the inflammation of the lining of the sheath around a tendon. Usually, the sheath itself is inflamed, but both the sheath and the tendon can be inflamed at the same time.

Common types of these tendon problems include:

  • Lateral epicondylosis, also called tennis elbow
  • Medial epicondylosis, also called golfer's or baseball elbow
  • Rotator cuff tendinosis
  • Biceps tendinosis
  • DeQuervain's tenosynovitis (swelling in the tendon sheath of the tendons of the thumb)

Symptoms of Tendinopathy and Tenosynovitis

While each person may experience tendon pain and tenosynovitis differently, common symptoms include the following:

  • Pain in the tendon when moved
  • Swelling from fluid and inflammation
  • A grating feeling when moving the joint

Causes of Tendinopathy and Tenosynovitis

The cause of tendinopathy and tenosynovitis is often not known. These conditions may be caused by strain, overuse, injury, or too much exercise. Tenosynovitis may also be related to a disease such as diabetes or other rheumatologic or metabolic conditions. Medications can also lead to tendinopathy.

Diagnosing Tendinopathy and Tenosynovitis

Your healthcare provider will ask about your health history and give you a physical exam. You may have tests to check for other problems that may be causing your symptoms. The tests may include:

  • X-ray
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Ultrasound
  • Laboratory tests, if needed

Treatments for Tendinopathy and Tenosynovitis

Your doctor will work with you to determine the best treatment plan based on your age, overall health, and medical history; the severity of your condition; and your tolerance for certain medications, procedures, or therapies.

Treatment may include:

  • Changing your activities
  • Heat/ice
  • Physical or occupational therapy
  • Braces, splints, or casts
  • Medications
  • Patient and family education
  • Injections or other pain management techniques
  • Surgical referral
  • Exercise programs
  • Conditioning exercises to help prevent further injury

Why Choose Columbia for Tendinopathy and Tenosynovitis Care

Our physicians are highly skilled in diagnosing and treating tendinopathy and tenosynovitis. We perform a thorough diagnostic evaluation to find the cause of your pain and plan the most conservative treatment possible, which may include exercise, lifestyle changes, medications, and if needed, injections or other pain management techniques. Our physicians may use imaging to guide injections so the medication is placed precisely. We work closely with Columbia orthopedic surgeons when a tendon condition may need surgical treatment.