Best Massages for Easing Tendon Inflammation in Tendonitis

Tendonitis can sideline you from your favorite sport, and the associated joint discomfort can even make daily tasks, like climbing stairs, a study in pain. Is it good to massage an inflamed tendon to diminish the ache? 

This ancient healing practice may bring considerable relief. Here’s your guide to using massage to manage tendonitis and other tips for managing the condition. 

What Is Tendonitis? 

Tendonitis simply means “inflammation of the tendon,” the connective tissue that attaches muscle to bone. Although it can occur anywhere, certain areas are more susceptible, including the shoulders, elbows, knees and ankles. For example, when many people refer to “tennis elbow’ or “jumper’s knee,” they are describing this condition. 

Tendonitis can severely limit your daily activity. It causes pain and swelling around the affected joint, which limits your ability to move it. The pain often increases after exertion, and continuing to “push through” the pain can result in a more severe degenerative condition known as tendinosis. 

What Causes Tendonitis?

Tendonitis can result from multiple causes, but certain conditions increase your risk, including:

  • Overuse: Tendonitis often occurs in those who perform repetitive motions at work.
  • Strain: Athletes who push themselves past their limits or use overly heavy weights. 
  • Injury: Sharp movements like jumping, running and throwing can injure a tendon and cause inflammation. 
  • Arthritis: This degenerative joint condition makes your tendons pick up the slack, which can lead to injury. 

What Are the Symptoms of Tendonitis? Treatments? 

You can generally feel the symptoms of tendonitis quickly. Many people experience the following signs

  • Swelling and stiffness
  • A bump or lump around the inflamed tendon
  • Tenderness around the affected joint
  • A cracking feeling when moving the joint 
  • Red bruising and warmth 
  • Dull and recurring pain 
  • Worsening pain with physical activity 

You may have other signs, depending on the affected joint. For example, those with ankle tendonitis may develop bone spurs. 

Traditional Treatment for Tendonitis

You can treat some cases of tendonitis at home, while others may warrant medical attention. Home remedies typically follow the RICE formula, which stands for: 

  • Rest: Tendonitis takes about two to six weeks to heal in most cases, during which you should dial down your activity level. 
  • Ice: Ice reduces inflammation and eases pain. 
  • Compression: Wrap a tight bandage around the affected joint to support the tendon as it heals. 
  • Elevation: Keep the affected joint elevated above your heart, if possible when sitting down. 

When to Seek Professional Care 

You should consult your doctor if you cannot bend or flex the affected area at all or if your injury robs you of your walking ability. Furthermore, seek help if pain lasts for more than a few days or if you develop sickness, fever, or pain spreading to multiple areas. Your doctor may provide special orthopedic supports to help you heal or give you a cortisone injection or other medicine for pain. 

Is It Good to Massage an Inflamed Tendon? 

Massage works by accelerating your body’s natural healing processes, bringing improved blood flow and oxygen to the affected area. Therefore, it’s good to massage an inflamed tendon — if you do so with care. 

Using Massage to Manage Tendonitis 

Let your pain levels be your primary guide when using massage to manage tendonitis. First, you need to differentiate between “good” pain and bad. The distinction is purely subjective — if your massage leaves you singing “Hurt So Good” by John Mellencamp, you’ve nailed it. However, discomfort that makes you want to hop off the table and exit stage right without paying your therapist can be a sign that you should do just that. 

Although rare, massage can sometimes worsen injuries or lead to new ones. Furthermore, your pain perception increases after a traumatic event, like an injury leading to tendonitis. In short, when you’re already hurting, you’re more sensitive — going gentle is the name of the game when using massage to manage tendonitis. 

Types of Massage 

There are scores of massage variations, from Swedish to deep tissue to hot stone to Shiatsu. Some of the techniques used in these practices can lead to “bad” pain. A basic Swedish massage is a fabulous choice for using massage to manage tendonitis, although you should avoid certain strokes around the inflamed area, such as: 

  • Tapotement entails rhythmic tapping or pounding motions that may cause discomfort. 
  • Friction uses short, circular motions to generate heat and may feel okay once your therapist loosens you up through other techniques.
  • Petrissage involves kneading, squeezing and lifting soft tissues and can feel painful. 

Communication with your therapist is key. Most will ask you if you have any injuries before your treatment, but it’s equally vital to speak up while you are on the table. Massage puts you in a vulnerable position, but it is meant to relax and heal you — if something doesn’t feel right, please say so.  

Conversely, effleurage or long, sweeping motions to improve blood flow and vibration can feel heavenly on inflamed tendons. Fortunately, these techniques are also the easiest to master and self-administer. 

Using Home Massage to Manage Tendonitis 

If you have a partner, trading couples massages to manage tendonitis not only feels great and spurs healing — it can strengthen your relationship. Of course, you can also trade healing tendon massages with another family member or friend. Western minds tend to equate physical contact with sexuality, but in reality, touch is a vital part of the human experience and crucial to overall health. 

You can also massage the inflamed tendon yourself, which provides ultimate control over which techniques you use and how much pressure you apply. Finally, at-home massage devices provide soothing vibration and require next-to-no effort. 

Other Tips for Managing Tendonitis 

Perhaps the best tip for managing tendonitis is to rest, doing low-impact activities like easy walking and yoga until you heal. Otherwise, you risk developing tendinosis, which takes you out of the game for a much longer time. 

Prevention is best for managing tendonitis. These tips can help you prevent future injuries:

  • Strengthen the affected joint: Even if you don’t have a physical therapist, you can perform heel raises and flipper kicks to strengthen your Achilles. Using weight machines on low settings keeps your body in alignment while allowing you to target other specific joints with tendonitis, like your knees or shoulders. Consult a trainer if you need help with the equipment. 
  • Use a support: Many people with jumper’s knee or tendonitis that affects the outside of their hips along the ITB band find considerable relief from patellar straps. You can also find braces for your shoulders, ankles and elbows, and using them during sports or repetitive activities takes pressure off the tendon and reduces injury risk. 
  • Take frequent breaks: If your job or favorite sport requires repetitive motion, take frequent breaks. A few minutes of rest and stretching each hour or after exertion, like lifting a patient, gives your tendons time to bounce back.  

Using Massage to Manage Tendonitis at Home

Massaging an inflamed tendon delivers healing oxygen and other nutrients to the tissues, helping them heal more quickly. Doing so with the right techniques prevents further injury. 

Do you have tendonitis that could use some TLC? The right self-massage tool can deliver the soothing relief you seek. You remain in control of your treatment, applying the right pressure for lasting relief. 

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