Running - Tendons

Tendons, thick cords that connect your muscles to bones, are more important than you might realize. For people who have had tendonitis (also called tendinitis), inflammation of the tendons causes pain and swelling, sometimes severe, and can make it difficult to do the activities you love.

For people with tendonitis, a frequently asked question is can they continue to play their sport or recreational activity with tendonitis?

Tendonitis can affect people no matter the level of sport or play, and is frequently seen in sports including golf, tennis, jogging and CrossFit. Tendonitis is classified in four stages and depending on what stage you are determines how much or how little you should continue with your sport.

Here are the stages of tendonitis:

Stage I: There is pain only after participating in activity. An example of this would be lateral elbow pain (tennis elbow) after a tennis match. At this stage there are no limitations in activities but the person should make sure that they are stretching and icing the area after finishing.

Stage II: Pain at the beginning and after the activity. Once the body part has warmed up there is no pain and it does not affect the way the person plays. An example of this is a basketball player with patella tendonitis or jumpers knee. This person has knee pain while is warming up; once the tendon is warmed and stretched they are able to play without pain but on completion of playing the knee pain has returned. At this point participation is not limited, but working on the reason that the tendonitis has started is important. This person should focus on stretching and strengthening the muscle imbalances and stretching the quad and IT band as well as strengthening of the lateral hip muscles.

Stage III: There is pain beginning, during, and after participating but play is not affected nor has the person altered the way that they are playing. An example would be a golfer with medial elbow pain every time they swing the golf club and the pain lingers. At this stage limiting play is important to only 50% participation. The golfer should play just nine holes of golf, not 18, and play less times during the week.

Stage IV: The most painful stage with continuous pain. There is pain before, during and after activity. The pain alters the way that a person is playing and they change the way they play to avoid pain. At this stage there needs to be complete rest.

Pamela A. Ziegenfus, PT is a physical therapist with OrthoCarolina Huntersville.

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