Tendinitis, a common cause of joint pain, is caused by an inflamed or irritated tendon, the thick cord that attaches muscles to bones.
Most people are probably familiar with tendinitis that is referred to as tennis elbow or golfer's elbow, relatively common injuries that occur because of repetitive motions in those sports. But tendinitis can occur in anyone who makes repetitive motions, from carpenters swinging a hammer to painters rolling paint on walls.
Tendinitis occurs from those minor injuries that occur with repetition, but also may be caused by a major injury, according to WebMD
. It also can occur more often when associated with other diseases, like rheumatoid arthritis or gout, and even by infections.
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The most common places for tendinitis to occur, according to WebMD, are:
- Base of the thumb
- Achilles tendon
Two types of tendinitis affect the shoulder, according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
. The first is biceps tendinitis, which affects the front or side of the shoulder, and pain may move down the arm to the elbow and forearm. The second is rotator cuff tendinitis, which results in pain at the top of the shoulder and upper arm.
Tendinitis that affects the elbow also affects people in two different ways. Commonly known as tennis elbow, lateral epicondylitis is inflammation in the tendon that attaches the forearm muscle to the outside of the elbow, WebMD said
. On the other side is medial epicondylitis, which means the inflammation is on the inside of the elbow where the tendon attaches.
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In interesting research that has received a lot of attention during the past decade, it has been discovered that conditions frequently diagnosed as tendinitis actually are not caused by inflamed tendons, according to a study published on the National Institutes of Health website
When joints diagnosed with tennis elbow, for instance, were examined closely, few inflammation markers were found, the study said. Instead, individuals more often had a condition called tendinosis, which is caused by degeneration of the tendon's collagen. Although there has been speculation that tendinitis may be the first stage of tendinosis, the study on NIH said that didn't bear out under closer examination.
The two tendon conditions require different treatments. The main goal of tendinitis treatment is to decrease inflammation, the study reported, which isn't occurring in tendinosis. In addition, tendinitis usually requires a shorter-term treatment, around six weeks, while treating tendinosis can take three months or more.
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