Tendonitis oftentimes occurs when a tendon becomes inflamed as a result of acute overuse. It’s incredibly common in athletes who jump into a training program too aggressively or in runners to increase their distance or duration too quickly, and the condition can be tough to manage because it oftentimes involves a delicate balancing act. Treated incorrectly, symptoms can linger and tendonitis can worsen, which is why it is almost always best to treat the problem with the help of a physical therapist. Below, we explain how a physical therapist can help you strike this delicate balance when it comes to treating tendonitis.
How A PT Can Help Treat Your Tendonitis
As we mentioned above, tendonitis is incredibly common in athletes, and it can make your sports season quite uncomfortable because symptoms tend to linger unless you carefully manage the condition. You may be forced to miss a couple games or practices as you treat the tendon inflammation, but it’s much preferred to missing the rest of the season because you tried to push through the discomfort and made the injury worse or ended up tearing a tendon.
Tendonitis is oftentimes tough to treat successfully for a number of reasons, and while we’ll get into some general advice below, it’s important that you follow the recommendations of your treating physical therapist. Odds are their recommendations will be similar to what you read below, but their advice takes precedence over general advice you find online.
With that said, tendonitis can be tricky to deal with because the first stage of treatment oftentimes involves what’s known as relative rest. Relative rest is different from absolute rest, which is where you try to limit any and all stress on the area. With relative rest, we want you to avoid strenuous activities, like throwing or swimming a club if you have elbow tendonitis, or running and jumping if the issue is housed in your feet, but you’ll still be performing some mild activities with these joints. These activities should not lead to increased inflammation, but some movement in the tendons and joints is important to avoid tendon weakening. Rest helps to protect the area from additional injury, but it does nothing to actively strengthen the tendon going forward, which is what you’ll need if you want to prevent a recurrence down the road.
Treatment only becomes more delicate as you work to progressively load the tendon. Taking on too much stress can cause symptoms or worsen, but pursuing movements and exercises that are too easy aren’t going to give the tendon what it needs to become stronger. You can try to find this middle ground on your own, but again the process becomes much easier with a professional by your side. Physical therapists are trained to understand your strengths and spot your weaknesses so that they can develop a therapy routine that challenges you without risking additional injury.
Finding this middle ground can also be difficult on your own because these exercises will be a little bit uncomfortable. As we mentioned above, if movements are too easy, they won’t help strengthen the tendon as needed. You’ll need to operate in an area between comfort and pain. Exercises may be a bit uncomfortable and certainly will be challenging, but they should not be painful. Working with a physical therapist to fine tune your rehabilitation regimen to land in this middle ground is much easier because they know exactly how certain movements will stress the tendon and nearby soft tissues.
Finally, many athletes also find it helpful to work with a physical therapist because a professional can help you set a realistic timeline for your return. Athletes inherently want to get back on the field for themselves and for their teammates as quickly as possible, and as we’ve noted above, jumping back into stressful activity too quickly is a recipe for another tendonitis flareup. Your physical therapist can help you set a realistic timeline for your return and gradually help you return to sport-specific activities so that you can be confident that your injury is fully behind you once you step back on the field.
Don’t let a tendonitis injury linger because you didn’t care for it properly or you rushed back before your body was truly ready. Instead, connect with a team of professionals who can provide expert oversight and advice as you work to get back to doing all the physical activities you love. For more information, or for help with a different physical issue, reach out to the team at OrthoRehab Specialists today at (612) 339-2041.
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