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Tendonitis Treatment & Management

  • Author: Mark Steele, MD; Chief Editor: Herbert S Diamond, MD  more...
 
Updated: Oct 01, 2014
 

Approach Considerations

The goal of treatment is to reduce pain and to return to activity. Nonpharmacologic treatments of tendinopathy are as follows:

  • Rest or decrease activity level. No clear recommendations are available for the duration of rest; however, patients should restrict activities that cause pain.
  • Ice is recommended for the first 24-48 hours.
  • Splinting and/or immobilization; sling for rotator cuff tendonitis
  • Strengthening and stretching exercises can be performed once the pain has subsided. Eccentric strength training can be effective in treating tendinopathies.

Low-intensity pulsed ultrasound was shown to be no more effective than placebo in the treatment of patellar tendinopathy.[9] Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) provided no benefit over primary care management in a randomized trial in 241 adults with tennis elbow.[10]

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are effective in relieving tendinopathy pain, and may be administered topically or orally. However, because the vast majority of tendinopathies are not inflammatory, whether NSAIDs are more effective than other analgesics is unclear.

Corticosteroid injection may be considered for patients with tendonitis in whom conservative therapy with rest, immobilization, and anti-inflammatory agents has failed.The corticosteroid (eg, triamcinolone) is typically combined with a local anesthetic (eg, lidocaine) to provide prompt analgesia; in addition, pain relief confirms the diagnosis and accurate placement of the corticosteroid.

The efficacy of locally injected steroids is debated. A systematic review concluded that steroid injections provide short-term pain relief but may not have long-term efficacy.[11] Response to injection therapy may vary with the anatomic site of tendinopathy.

A randomized, controlled trial in 165 patients with unilateral lateral epicondylalgia of longer than 6 weeks' duration found that although results at 4 weeks favored corticosteroid injection, at 1 year the rate of much improvement or complete recovery was lower with corticosteroid injection than with placebo injection (83% vs 96%, respectively; relative risk [RR], 0.86; P = 0.01)). One-year recurrence was also higher with corticosteroid versus placebo (54% vs 12%; RR, 0.23; P < 0.001).[12]

Never use injections for Achilles tendonitis, because cases of Achilles tendon rupture have been reported following a single injection of corticosteroid. Avoid repetitive corticosteroid injections in any site, as well as injection directly into a tendon, because of the risk of tendon rupture.

In patients with calcific tendonitis of the shoulder, a systematic review concluded that ultrasound (US)-guided needling and lavage has a high success rate and low complication rate.[13] In a randomized controlled study in 48 patients with calcific tendonitis of the rotator cuff that compared the combination of barbotage and US-guided corticosteroid injection in the subacromial bursa with subacromial bursa injection alone, both treatment groups demonstrated improvement at 1-year follow-up, but clinical and radiographic results were significantly better in the barbotage group.[14] After US-guided treatment, recovery may be enhanced by use of a rehabilitation protocol that focuses on mobility, strength, and function.[15]

Surgical therapy

Patients with symptoms resistant to conservative therapy may benefit from arthroscopic or open surgical treatment for tendon decompression and tenodesis. A Japanese study in 23 patients with chronic lateral epicondylitis who underwent arthroscopic surgery found that the procedure provided significant improvement in pain and functional recovery up to 3 months after surgery. However, the visual analog scale (VAS) for pain and satisfaction criteria during activity did not fall below 10 points until 6 months postoperatively.[16]

Platelet-rich therapies

Platelet-rich therapies represent an experimental approach to treatment of tendinopathies and other musculoskeletal soft tissue injuries. In this technique, a quantity of the patient's blood is centrifuged and the active, platelet-rich fraction is extracted and applied to the injured tissue (eg, by injection). In theory, the growth factors produced by platelets should enhance tissue healing. Although platelet-rich therapies are gaining wider use, a Cochrane review concluded that at present there is insufficient evidence to support the clinical use of platelet-rich therapies.[17]

 
 
Contributor Information and Disclosures
Author

Mark Steele, MD Professor, Department of Emergency Medicine, Chief Medical Officer, Truman Medical Center, University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine

Mark Steele, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Emergency Medicine, Society for Academic Emergency Medicine

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Coauthor(s)

Jeffrey G Norvell, MD Clinical Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine, University of Kansas School of Medicine

Jeffrey G Norvell, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Emergency Medicine, American College of Emergency Physicians, Society for Academic Emergency Medicine

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Specialty Editor Board

Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy; Editor-in-Chief, Medscape Drug Reference

Disclosure: Received salary from Medscape for employment. for: Medscape.

Gino A Farina, MD, FACEP, FAAEM Professor of Emergency Medicine, Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine at Hofstra University; Program Director, Department of Emergency Medicine, Long Island Jewish Medical Center

Gino A Farina, MD, FACEP, FAAEM is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Emergency Medicine, American College of Emergency Physicians, Society for Academic Emergency Medicine

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Chief Editor

Herbert S Diamond, MD Visiting Professor of Medicine, Division of Rheumatology, State University of New York Downstate Medical Center; Chairman Emeritus, Department of Internal Medicine, Western Pennsylvania Hospital

Herbert S Diamond, MD is a member of the following medical societies: Alpha Omega Alpha, American College of Physicians, American College of Rheumatology, American Medical Association, Phi Beta Kappa

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Additional Contributors

Richard S Krause, MD Senior Clinical Faculty/Clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Emergency Medicine, University of Buffalo State University of New York School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences

Richard S Krause, MD is a member of the following medical societies: Alpha Omega Alpha, American Academy of Emergency Medicine, American College of Emergency Physicians, Society for Academic Emergency Medicine

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

References
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Hawkins test. The examiner forward flexes the arms to 90° and then forcibly internally rotates the shoulder. This movement pushes the supraspinatus tendon against the anterior surface of the coracoacromial ligament and coracoid process. Pain indicates a positive test result for supraspinatus tendonitis.
Speed test.
Yergason test.
The proximal patellar tendon is most commonly affected in jumper's knee.
Iliotibial band at the lateral femoral condyle, with the posterior fibers denoted.
The Ober test.
 
 
 
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