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Prevention & Treatment

Monday, Aug. 27, 2007; 7:47 PM

Copyright Harvard Health Publications 2007


Table of Contents

In many cases, tendonitis can be avoided by taking a few simple precautions. Some helpful strategies include:

  • Always warm up before beginning strenuous exercise.

  • If you want to intensify your exercise level, do it gradually.

  • Be careful about the "no pain, no gain" approach. It is usually hard to distinguish between an ache that indicates you're building strength and an ache that means you injured a tendon.

  • Avoid activities that require prolonged periods of reaching over your head, such as painting the ceiling. If you must do this kind of work, take frequent breaks.

  • Wear shoes that fit properly, especially if you participate in a sport that requires a lot of running, such as track, cross-country or basketball.

  • If your injury seems to be related to faulty technique, ask your coach or trainer for guidance. If these people cannot help, then a doctor who specializes in sports medicine may be able to suggest a competent sports professional who can guide you.

  • For people with medial or lateral epicondylitis related to racquet sports, changing to a racquet with a larger head may help to prevent re-injury, as long as the new racquet is not heavier than the original. Some specialists believe that this type of racquet cuts down on the transmission of vibrations to the arm.

  • Tendonitis caused by gonorrhea can be prevented by abstinence or by practicing safe sex.


The quicker your tendonitis is treated, the sooner you'll recover full strength and flexibility. Your doctor first may recommend that you apply ice packs to the painful area for 20-minute periods, three or four times a day. You also should ice the area immediately after any activity that aggravates your pain (such as tennis, running, etc.) To relieve pain and swelling, your doctor may suggest that you take ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin and others), aspirin or another nonprescription anti-inflammatory medication, usually for several weeks. You also will need to rest the area for a few days to a few weeks to allow your body to repair itself. For example, people with golfer's elbow usually need to rest the affected elbow for at least one month. If an infection is causing the tendonitis, you may be given antibiotics.

Depending on the location and severity of tendonitis, you may need temporary splinting, bracing or a sling (for tendonitis in the upper extremity). However, it is important to keep moving the joint to avoid getting a stiff, or "frozen," joint.

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