Chiropractic for Tendonitis
Whether it’s pitcher's shoulder, tennis elbow, or runner’s knee, anyone with tendonitis wants relief from pain. The soreness, aching sensation and chronic discomfort of tendonitis around muscles are caused when a tendon connecting a muscle to a bone is overused, injured or used improperly. More than 4 million Americans see a physician each year for tendonitis symptoms. Once tendonitis has been properly diagnosed, a natural approach to treatment that addresses the underlying cause of the injury can be arranged with a chiropractor. With good chiropractic treatment, tendonitis can heal and the person can prevent reinjuring the affected area.
Using Chiropractic to Treat Tendonitis
The first goal of a chiropractor in treating tendonitis is to make an accurate diagnosis of the problem, ruling out any other possible underlying causes of the pain. This is necessary because the joint pain and stiffness of tendonitis are similar to the experience of bursitis or arthritis. X-rays, CAT (Computerized Axial Tomography) scans (an x-ray procedure used to create cross-sectional or three-dimensional images) and MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging) are tools a chiropractor might use to obtain an accurate diagnosis for tendonitis pain.
After the diagnosis, a chiropractor will select a natural treatment plan that addresses the cause of the tendonitis, rather than simply treating symptoms. Initially, the chiropractor may support and protect the injured tendons by bracing those portions of the tendon that were pulled. The tendon needs to be loosened and the inflammation reduced. Treatments that follow might include ultrasound, ice, rest, temporary immobilization, electrical muscle stimulation, manual trigger point therapy (applying firm pressure by hand on a trigger point for several seconds and then stretching the muscle afterward), strengthening exercises, physical therapy, and/or massage. Joint manipulation may also be performed on individuals with diminished joint mobility.
With proper treatment, the pain and inflammation in the tendon should decrease during the first three weeks. Full healing, however, will not be achieved until at least six weeks have passed. During these six weeks, scar tissue is formed, which initially helps bond the tissue back together.
The scar tissue needs to be broken down so the tendon and muscle regain flexibility, which lessens the chance of further injury. At first, a chiropractor may treat scar tissue with ultrasound and massage. Ultrasound involves using sound waves to soften the scar tissue, enabling it to break down. It also helps increase circulation to the tissue. Ultrasound may also be used to assist with moving topical nutrient and pain solutions deeper into the tissues. Mild stretches that do not irritate the tendons can be incorporated. Once the tissues have healed, exercise can help further break down scar tissue. During this period, longer stretches should target only the muscles, not the affected tendons.
How a Chiropractor Treats Chronic Tendonitis
If the tendonitis continues beyond the first six months, the condition is chronic and more difficult to treat. A chiropractor will evaluate the exact point of pain and figure out which muscle or tendon is attached at that site. With chronic problems, treatment away from the site of the problem may be more effective. This is because the point of pain might be the body’s way of compensating for an injury that has occurred elsewhere. Any misaligned joints might directly cause the tendonitis and must be properly realigned. By correcting the core problem, symptoms in other areas of the body disappear. Then the chiropractor must understand the cause for the muscle damage that led to the joint imbalance. The body must be taught how to perform tasks without adding excessive stress on those same joints. The chiropractor will suggest exercises to help keep affected muscles strong and to prevent a recurring injury.
Sometimes, scar tissue will continue forming for up to a year after the initial injury. The scar tissue causes the injured muscle to tighten and shorten, creating increased stress on the muscle. This tightness can pull the bone and joint out of normal alignment, placing even more pressure and irritation on the original injured tendon or on a related tendon. More inflammation, tearing, pain, and swelling may occur. Such a condition requires a realignment of the tissues in the affected area, which can be done by a chiropractor.
Other Chiropractic Treatments for Tendonitis
A friction massage using Graston instruments stops the collagen in the affected tissues from breaking down, breaks the tendonitis cycle, and assists with collagen production. The technique involves six instruments that improve the chiropractor’s ability to palpate fibrous restrictions. The process recreates the inflammatory response, separating the scar tissue from the normal tissue. The final stage involves remodeling the new collagen so it aligns properly. Patients who have clotting disorders or who are on blood thinners should be carefully monitored if they choose this option.
Nutrition might also be used to bolster patients’ bodies against tendonitis. A good nutrient that a chiropractor might suggest for supporting the knees is calcium pangamate (vitamin B15).
What is Tendonitis?
Tendonitis is an injury or irritation of the fibrous, thick tendons that connect muscles to bones. Tendonitis is also called tendinosis because little inflammation is present when the tendon is biopsied. During the first stage of tendonitis, patients experience a dull ache after an activity that involves using the tendon. The ache decreases with rest. In stage 2, the patients experience pain during minor movements of the affected area. During the final stage, patients are in constant pain.
What Causes Tendonitis?
Tendonitis can occur through sports participation when certain joints are overused, or when the athlete is undertrained or uses poor technique in sports. In certain occupations, repetitive movement, such as typing, can cause tendons to inflame. Injuries and repeated trauma also can contribute, as can autoimmune disorders (such as diabetes), some inflammatory conditions, and some infections. Tendonitis shows up mostly in the shoulder, elbow, wrist, thumb, hip, knee, and ankle.
Signs of Tendonitis
- Pain that worsens when the affected limb is moved
- Stiffness and loss of range of motion
- Warmth and redness
What is Chiropractic?
Chiropractic is a health care profession that deals with musculoskeletal system and nervous system disorders and their effects on overall health. Chiropractics use a natural, hands-on approach that involves patient examination, diagnosis and treatment. Chiropractors use a variety of diagnostic tools and may recommend therapeutic and rehabilitative exercises. They also provide counseling on nutrition and lifestyle choices.
American Chiropractic Association (ACA)
Tendonitis/tendinitis information and treatment options