Tendonitis, whether it is in your shoulder, knee, elbow, wrist, foot, or wherever it is, can be one of the peskiest and annoying (not to mention painful) problems around.
While tendonitis can happen in any part of the body where a tendon has been overused, most people experience this injury near joints.
Tendonitis happens when the tendon and muscle have been overused beyond the body’s ability to repair and/or recover. Muscles have terrific blood supplies that bring healing nutrients and fresh oxygen, but our tendons (and other connective tissues) don’t!
This causes our tendons to become inflamed and unable to heal as quickly. Most people are unaware that they are developing tendonitis until it has become moderately painful.
How to treat tendonitis in the elbow, wrist, foot, or other joints? To prevent them from becoming a chronic problem, you should see your chiropractor as soon as possible.
How Long Does it Take for Tendonitis to Go Away?
That would depend on the overall health and age of the patient, as well as how serious a case of tendonitis is.
A mild case of tendonitis for a person under 40 could heal in two to four weeks. A moderate case in 4 to 6 weeks and an extreme case can take months.
It is important that you not ignore tendonitis, especially if it returns after you have tried the usual methods listed below.
Common Symptoms and Signs of Tendonitis
Mild cases of tendonitis can feel like a sore muscle, however, moderate tendonitis symptoms, depending on the affected area, can include:
- In the Elbow: Pain, sometimes quite sharp, on the outside of the elbow joint, with sore muscles or muscles that are painful to the touch, in the forearm and wrist. It can occur in the inner elbow, but this is not as common.
- In the Wrist: Pain is usually in the inner joint of the wrist or below the base of the thumb. The joint is tender and sensitive to the touch.
- In the Foot: Pain is felt in the Achilles heel and the foot is tender or sensitive when walking.
- In the Shoulder: When reaching up or lifting the arm, pain is felt in the shoulder.
- In the Knee: Swelling and stiffness are common, along with pain when bending, walking, or sometimes putting weight on the affected knee.
Tendonitis can make driving a painful task.
Can’t Tendonitis Be Left Untreated Until It Goes Away?
It can, but you should never ignore pain signals. Pain is your body’s way of telling you something is wrong.
Why should you never ignore tendonitis? Here are the top 5 reasons.
Reason #1 – It Rarely Gets Better
The first thing a doctor will tell you is that you need to “rest” the painful area. Unfortunately, rest usually works only with the mildest forms of tendonitis. As we mentioned earlier, most people are unaware that they have a problem until it reaches the moderate stage.
While resting your arm or foot will help, even if the tendon has moderate amounts of damage, it probably won’t take care of the inflammation.
You will also need to do some sort of stretching/strengthening/rehabilitation to the area, otherwise, when you return to your normal activities (including the one that caused this injury to begin with) you are only going to overuse that tendon again.
Imagine hitting your hand with a hammer over and over. Yes, putting down that hammer for a few weeks will help stop the pain, but when you return to hitting yourself with the hammer, do you think all that rest will make your hand stop hurting?
This is why most people who simply “rest” the affected don’t see improvement, at least, not for very long!
Reason #2 – You Probably Won’t Leave It Alone
Will tendonitis heal on its own? It can, but for the reasons listed here, it rarely does.
Read again how long it takes for tendonitis to go away. If you need to completely rest your arm, hand, shoulder, or foot, do you think you can stop using it for 4-6 weeks?
To be honest, most people can’t do this. You probably have a job, children, or other responsibilities that don’t allow you the luxury of a beach vacation for 4-6 weeks.
Most people might take a week off, but even then, they rarely stop using the affected joint entirely. Once they return to their normal routine, the activity they are doing that has caused the tendonitis is resumed, and therefore, tendonitis also returns within days or a few weeks.
Reason #3 – It Can Become Chronic
Due to reasons #1 and #2, it is not uncommon for tendonitis to become chronic. If you are able to give the affected tendon 4-6 weeks of complete rest, you might have success but since most people cannot devote that amount to not using the joint, they re-injure themselves.
When this happens, the ongoing inflammation causes the tendons to become chronic. Healing chronic tendonitis is a long and painful process that sometimes requires surgery. A chronic case of tendonitis will not only take months to heal, but you will also need rehabilitative therapy to strengthen the area.
Living with the pain of chronic tendonitis, no matter which joint is affected can become a nightmare. While mild cases might feel more like a sore muscle, chronic cases of tendonitis can feel like a knife is being driven into the joint, even with performing simple tasks such as pulling on a door handle.
Because chronic tendonitis takes so long to heal, some doctors opt for surgery, especially if other conservative methods are not effective or are only providing minimal relief.
Reason #4 – You Want to Avoid Surgery
As we mentioned earlier, most people are not even aware that they are developing tendonitis until it has become moderately painful. Unless you have sustained an injury where the tendon has been cut or torn, you will most likely try the above methods with little success.
This continued use of the joint means inflammation will grow substantially. With severe cases of tendonitis, where more conservative treatments have not helped or, more likely, where no treatment was given at all, surgery will be required.
Unfortunately, when it comes to surgery on a tendon, it’s not as simple as healing a broken bone. In some cases, the joint becomes permanently stiff and a full range of motion might never return to the area.
Healing time after surgery is about 12 weeks but depending on the overall health and age of the patient, it can take as long as 6 months.
Almost everyone can avoid surgery, however, if you seek out proper treatment as soon as you feel joint pain or realize that you have tendonitis.
Reason #5 – Your Body Will Heal with Proper Treatment
How do you heal tendonitis fast? By getting treatment as quickly as possible!
Even if it’s not tendonitis but a pulled shoulder muscle, for example, your body will heal faster when the proper treatment is applied.
Tendonitis responds very well to chiropractic care, including manipulation and ultrasound. Depending on your diagnosis, your chiropractor might also use other types of therapies as a part of your tendonitis treatment plan, including:
- Chiropractic massage
- Heat therapy
- Supervised exercise and stretching programs
- Cold laser therapy
Your chiropractor will do a complete exam and will most likely order x-rays to determine if the pain you are experiencing is tendonitis or possibly some other type of joint problem.
Since chiropractors do more than just treat the symptoms, they will look at your entire body and lifestyle to discover the root of the problem, thereby preventing tendonitis from reoccurring and allowing it to become chronic.
The doctor might suggest ergonomic changes to your workstation, offer you advice regarding appropriate anti-inflammatory supplements to lower the inflammation levels surrounding the tendon, or they could refer you to a different specialist if you have other issues that fall outside of their range of practice.
Chiropractors are highly skilled specialists in the musculoskeletal aspect of the body. They are your best option when it comes to healing tendonitis quickly.
What Happens if Tendonitis Goes Untreated?
Untreated tendonitis can lead to a permanent weakening of the tendon. This often results in a rupture of the tendon, which will require surgery to repair. It can also cause permanent damage to the affected tissues in the area.
Repeated bouts with tendonitis will result in scar tissue forming in the area. Pain and inflammation will continue to form since scar tissue is not as flexible as tendons are. This often causes people to “force” the affected joint to work harder, which causes more inflammation.
Untreated tendonitis can become a life-long pain issue that interferes with even everyday tasks such as dressing, walking, eating, or brushing your hair.
Don’t let this happen to you!
We encourage you to contact us for an appointment at Better Health Chiropractic and Physical Rehab.
Our friendly staff will be happy to check your insurance coverage and find out what your deductible or copay is. If you don’t have insurance, this doesn’t mean that you can’t afford the treatment you deserve. Read this article first!
Don’t suffer in pain! Get started down the road to recovery and get back to living a healthy, pain-free life!
About the Author
Dr. Brent Wells, D.C. founded Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab and has been a chiropractor for over 20 years. His practice has treated thousands of patients from different health problems using services designed to help give long-lasting relief.
Dr. Wells is also the author of over 700 online health articles that have been featured on sites such as Dr. Axe, Organic Facts, and Thrive Global. He is a proud member of the American Chiropractic Association and the American Academy of Spine Physicians. And he continues his education to remain active and updated in all studies related to neurology, physical rehab, biomechanics, spine conditions, brain injury trauma, and more.