Tendinitis is an inflammation of the tendon or cord of fibrous tissue that attaches a muscle to a bone. It is sometimes accompanied by tenosynovitis, which is an inflammation of the lining of the tendon sheath.
Tendinitis and tenosynovitis are very common summertime injuries, as we get more active and do activities that we are not used to. The symptoms of these conditions are pain and tenderness at or near a joint, especially upon movement of the joint; possible swelling over the area; and in some cases numbness and tingling. Stiffness, along with the pain can restrict movement of the joint involved. Tendinitis most frequently affects the shoulder, elbow (tennis elbow), wrist/hand and heel (Achilles tendinitis).
The exact cause of the inflammation is often unknown, but may result from repeated trauma, excessive strain or overuse of the tendon. For instance, irregular or too-strenuous exercise along with not warming up properly can make one prone to tendinitis—the "weekend warrior" syndrome.
Repetitive strain injuries in the arms are most often related to the type of work that a person does—computer and tech workers, hair dressers, musicians, car mechanics, golfers, massage therapists, to name a few, and anyone who works for long, uninterrupted hours on a computer are predisposed to this type of overuse injury.
How Chinese Medicine Views Tendinitis
These causes can lead to what's called "local qi and blood congestion in the channels" according to traditional Chinese medicine or TCM. TCM, as you may know by now, includes acupuncture and Chinese herbs. Acupuncture needles are inserted at or very near to the source of the pain. This addresses the local symptoms by improving the circulation of qi and blood in the affected area.
Chinese herbs can reduce the inflammation in soft tissues and strengthen and nourish the tendons. According to TCM, one of the functions of the liver is to control and moisten the tendons and ligaments. Therefore, healthy liver function is expressed in ease of movement. Acupuncture and herbs for tendinitis usually involve treating the liver also.
How we Treat Tendinitis at SFNM
People with severe tendinitis may have to stop work that aggravates the condition, at least for a while. Less severe cases can be treated quite successfully with acupuncture and kept from becoming debilitating. Both acupuncture and Chinese herbs are extremely effective in treating tendinitis. Acupuncture, in particular, is the treatment of choice, giving excellent results in both acute and chronic cases. Acute cases can often be resolved in a few treatments. However, many people with this problem present with very chronic conditions. These cases can be treated with good results too, but the more long-standing the condition, the longer it will take to resolve.
At San Francisco Natural Medicine, we take an integrative approach in treating acute and chronic tendinitis, often using acupuncture to address the local pain and inflammation while using both TCM and western herbal and nutritional formulas to promote healing, reduce inflammation and pain, and give the tendons nutritional support to speed recovery.
Tendinitis is one of the most common musculoskeletal afflictions and can especially affect us as we age, but it need not be inevitable. It is possible to take steps to minimize or prevent it altogether. As is often the case with many conditions, the two most important areas in life to attend to in order to prevent it are exercise and diet. Regular acupuncture tune-ups can also aid in preventing the development of tendinitis in the first place, as well as preventing a recurrence of tendinitis once it has been relieved.
If you're suffering from acute or chronic tendinitis, give us a call and we'd be glad to schedule an appointment for you.