The term “tendinitis” implies inflammation of a tendon. Tendons, in turn, are tough, soft tissue structures through which muscle attaches to the bone. In point of fact, the muscle tissue turns into tendinous tissue before it inserts onto a bone. As a result, the function of the tendon is to securely anchor muscles to the bones that those muscles move.
Inflammation of a tendon occurs as a result of an injury to the tendon. This injury can be a one-time traumatic injury, such as a contusion. However, more commonly, the injury is due to repetitive stresses on the tendon without sufficient rest and time between stresses in order for the tendon to heal. As a result, tendinitis is typically due to an overuse injury.
The most common areas of tendinitis are the rotator cuff tendons of the shoulder, the patellar tendon in the front of the knee, and tendons on the outside aspect of the elbow. Respectively, inflammation of these areas is referred to as rotator cuff tendinitis (“thrower’s shoulder”), patellar tendinitis ("jumper's knee"), and elbow lateral epicondylitis ("tennis elbow").
Tendinitis in any of these locations can be quite limiting. Fortunately, the inflamed tendon can usually be treated successfully with conservative means, including activity modification, physical therapy stretching and strengthening exercises, anti-inflammatory medication, and occasionally bracing. As a result, surgical treatment for tendinitis is usually not necessary. However, sometimes tendinitis does not respond to the conservative treatments outlined above and surgical intervention is necessary to resolve the problem.