Rheumatologists frequently treat tendonitis (inflamed tendon) for two reasons. For starters, they specialize in inflammatory conditions affecting your muscles, ligaments, and tendons.
They also see many patients with tendonitis because it often occurs together with other rheumatological conditions like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
At Pacific Rheumatology Medical Center, Behnam Khaleghi, MD, has extensive experience helping patients with tendonitis, providing expert medical care and recommending stretching exercises supporting their recovery.
How tendonitis develops
An acute injury (like a sports injury or fall) may injure a tendon. You’re also more likely to develop tendonitis if you have another rheumatological disease.
However, overuse injuries are the most common cause of tendonitis. Overuse injuries occur when you frequently repeat the same movement.
Regular, everyday movement causes tiny tears in your tendons and muscles. If these small tears don’t have time to heal because you keep making the same movement, the micro-injuries get worse and inflammation develops. That’s when you have tendonitis.
Before you start stretching
Stretching is essential for treating tendonitis, but don’t start until we examine your tendon and determine it’s safe. Stretching a tendon while it’s inflamed can do more harm than good.
Stretching puts extra pressure on the tendon, which can stop healing, make the inflammation and injury worse, cause more pain, and lengthen your recovery.
Treatment for tendonitis begins by resting the tendon and limiting or stopping any movement that causes pain. Most people can begin their rehabilitation when they can gently stretch without feeling pain. It’s OK to feel the pull, but you should stop stretching if it’s painful.
Tendonitis can affect any tendon in your body, causing problems ranging from tennis elbow and biceps tendonitis to jumper’s knee, swimmer’s shoulder, and Achilles tendonitis.
The best stretch depends on the tendon’s location. Since there aren’t four general stretching exercises for everyone, we’re describing stretches for four types of tendonitis.
Tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis)
Tennis elbow affects the tendons connecting your forearm muscles to your elbow. Though you feel the pain in your elbow, the problem occurs due to repetitive hand and wrist movements because the forearm muscles extend and turn the wrist. For this reason, wrist stretches improve tennis elbow.
Wrist flexion stretch: Hold your arm up in front of you, keep it straight, and bend your hand up like signaling someone to stop. Use the opposite hand to gently press the palm toward you until you can feel the stretch in your forearm, and hold it for 15 seconds. Repeat the stretch five times, then switch to your other arm.
Wrist extension stretch: This is the same as for flexion, except you gently bend your hand down, with your fingers pointing toward the ground.
The Achilles tendon attaches your calf muscle to your heel bone, making Achilles tendonitis one of the top causes of heel pain. This type of tendonitis calls for a classic calf stretch.
Stand up and face a wall, place your hands flat on the wall, and put one leg forward. Keeping both heels on the ground, lean toward the wall, bending the knee on the forward leg and keeping the other leg straight.
You should feel the stretch in the calf and tendon of the straight leg. Hold the stretch for 10 seconds and relax, repeating it several times to stretch both legs.
Rotator cuff tendonitis
The rotator cuff tendons connect to your upper arm, supporting the arm’s full range of movement. A crossover arm stretch supports your recovery from rotator cuff tendonitis.
Stand up straight and relax your shoulders. Stretch the affected arm straight across your chest, keeping it a little below your chin. Hold the elbow with your other hand and gently stretch the arm.
Jumper’s knee (patellar tendonitis)
The patellar tendon begins in the quadriceps muscle (in the front of your thigh) and attaches to the back of your kneecap (patella) and the top of the shinbone (tibia). The tendon’s primary job is to straighten your leg, so it is difficult to walk, run, and jump if it becomes inflamed.
Tight muscles in your calf and hamstring (the muscle at the back of your thigh) increase your risk of developing patellar tendonitis. You can improve jumper’s knee by doing the calf stretch described above and a hamstring stretch.
To do a hamstring stretch, sit on a chair and put one leg straight out in front of you. Keep your knee straight and your heel on the floor while you bend at the hip and slowly lean forward. (Be sure to keep your back straight.) Hold the stretch for 30 seconds, then repeat the same stretch with your other leg.
Don’t hesitate to call Pacific Rheumatology Medical Center or book an appointment online if you have any questions about tendonitis.