Tendinitis and Bursitis
Tendinitis and Bursitis
Ease the Ouch of Playing Too Hard
You're active. Tennis matches several times a week. Or regular step aerobics classes. Or maybe you can't get enough golf. Congratulations--you're avoiding the pitfalls of a sedentary lifestyle. But now your doctor says that you have tendinitis. Or bursitis. It's often the price women pay for doing too much too quickly.
"As the name implies, tendinitis develops when tendons, which connect muscle to bone, become inflamed," says Rosemary Agostini, M.D., clinical assistant professor of orthopedics at the University of Washington School of Medicine and sports medicine and family practice physician at the Virginia Mason Medical Center, both in Seattle. "So you feel pain."
Bursitis occurs when bursae, the fluid-filled sacs that decrease friction in the body's joints, become inflamed, Dr. Agostini says. If that occurs, you'll likely experience pain and swelling.
DIFFERENT AILMENTS, SAME REMEDIES
Tendinitis and bursitis are painful, but there are some steps that you can take right away to relieve the pain.
Stop doing what you're doing. It sounds obvious, but the last thing that you should do is try to work through the pain, as active sorts are apt to do. "Your joints are not supposed to hurt when you use them," says Dr. Agostini. "If they do, your body is trying to tell you something."
So if your shoulder hurts when you play tennis, cancel your matches until the pain subsides. Otherwise, it will only get worse, says Lynn Van Ost, P.T., a clinical specialist at the Sports Medicine Center in Philadelphia.
Make an appointment with ice. There's nothing like ice to decrease swelling and ease pain. Buy an ice pack in a drugstore or use ice from your freezer, says Dr. Agostini. Either way, wrap it in a cloth so that you don't end up with an indoor case of frostbite. Apply ice for no more than 20 minutes at a time, and repeat three or four times a day.
Elevate the joint. "If you can rest the painful joint above your heart level, you can often decrease the swelling," says Dr. Agostini. If your ankle hurts, elevate it by lying down and propping a pillow or two underneath it.
When To See A Doctor
If your tendinitis or bursitis gets worse after three or four days, or if it doesn't improve with home remedies, see your doctor for an evaluation or to rule out other conditions.
Take your medicine. An anti-inflammatory such as aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen sodium (Aleve) taken according to package instructions will ease the pain and swelling, Dr. Agostini says.
STAYING IN THE GAME
Bursitis and tendinitis tend to flare up from time to time. So women experts recommend the following precautions to help keep these conditions at bay.
Move that joint. It's natural to want to avoid pain, but if you baby your shoulder by trying not to use it, you will get stiff, and you'll be more likely to hurt yourself again, says Van Ost.
After the initial pain subsides, "make sure to do some simple exercises to keep your joint flexible," says Van Ost. If you have shoulder pain brought on by tendinitis, for example, Van Ost recommends four movements that can help. Each begins with your arm hanging down at your side. First, raise your arm straight in front of you until it is over your head, and lower it back to the starting point. Then raise your arm out to the side and lower. For the third exercise, extend your arm to the side so that it's perpendicular to your body and rotate it toward yourself. Return to the starting position. The final exercise is similar to the third, but you rotate your arm away from you. Repeat each of the motions ten times before moving onto the next exercise. "Do the routine consistently one or two times a day, so that you maintain flexibility, but don't overuse or irritate the joint," says Van Ost.
Get stronger. Another good way to combat tendinitis and bursitis brought on by overusing a particular joint is to make sure that your limb is up to the tasks that you set for it, Dr. Agostini says.
Van Ost's advice: Try specific exercises designed for the joint that's aching. For example, if you have bursitis of the knee, try riding a stationary bicycle on medium pedal resistance, adjusted so that you have no knee discomfort, for five to ten minutes.
Do sport-specific stretches. Careful stretching prevents tightness and is important in treating both bursitis and tendinitis, Dr. Agostini says. Stretch for at least five to ten minutes after activity.
Cross-train. You love playing tennis, but hate tendinitis? You don't have to give up the sport you love, but you can vary your routine. "Take every other day off from tennis and go swimming or take a walk instead," says Van Ost.
Check your grip. If you play tennis, check your racket size. Sometimes women end up with tendinitis because they're playing with a racket that's too big or too small for them to grip comfortably. "To prevent overuse injuries, check with a qualified instructor or pro-shop staffer to make sure that you're using the right size racket," Dr. Agostini says.
Replace worn-out workout shoes. A worn-out, worn-down heel on a walking or running shoe can contribute to tendinitis, "so make sure that your footwear is comfortable and in good condition," says Dr. Agostini.