What is Tendonitis?

What is Tendonitis?

Tendonitis (or tendinitis) is irritation or inflammation of a tendon—a flexible cord of tissue that connects a muscle to a bone and helps it move. Tendonitis develops from overuse or repetitive motions like reaching overhead when swimming. Tendonitis commonly occurs around the shoulder, elbow, wrist, hip, knee, and ankle.

Types of Tendonitis


Types of tendonitis are often named for the joint affected or the sports they’re associated with, like tennis elbow. Types of tendonitis include:

  • Shoulder tendonitis - Can occur in the rotator cuff tendons and/or the biceps tendon
  • Rotator cuff tendonitis - Also known as swimmer’s shoulder or pitcher’s shoulder, this type of tendonitis affects the tendons of the set of muscles that move the shoulder
  • Biceps tendonitis - Affects the tendon that connects the biceps muscle to the shoulder blade bone
  • Elbow tendonitis - Usually happens on the inside or the outside of the elbow
  • Tennis elbow (formally lateral epicondylitis) - When a tendon on the outside of the elbow becomes inflamed
  • Golfer’s elbow (medial epicondylitis) - Affects a tendon on the inside of the elbow
  • Wrist tendonitis - Most commonly de Quervain’s tenosynovitis, this type of tendonitis affects tendons running along the thumb side of the wrist
  • Hip tendonitis - Commonly known as hip flexor tendonitis or hip abductor tendonitis when located on the lateral hip
  • Knee tendonitis or Jumper’s knee (patellar tendonitis) – When the tendon that connects the kneecap to the shin bone becomes inflamed
  • Foot and ankle tendonitis - Commonly occurs as Achilles tendonitis, which is inflammation of the tendon attaching the calf muscle to the heel bone
  • Peroneal tendonitis - Affects the two tendons found on the outside of the ankle bone.This kind of tendonitis is common in dancers.
  • Extensor tendonitis - Affects tendons that connect the front of the leg to the toes

Signs & Symptoms of Tendonitis


No matter where it develops in the body, the signs and symptoms of tendonitis are the same:

  • Tenderness to touch
  • Pain with movement
  • Possible swelling where a tendon joins muscle to a bone.

These tendonitis symptoms worsen if you continue to use the injured body part while it’s sore. With tendonitis, you may also experience pain at night, stiffness, and loss of strength around the affected joint.

What Causes Tendonitis?


Tendonitis is usually caused by overuse. It can also happen when you don’t stretch or warm up before exercising or if you suddenly push yourself to increase the intensity of exercise.

Besides sports and exercise, jobs and everyday chores that involve repetitive movements can lead to tendonitis, as can a bump or direct blow to a tendon.

Types of repetitive movements that can cause tendonitis include:

  • Shoulder - Reaching overhead for swimming strokes, or activities like painting or construction work
  • Heel - Running, especially if you suddenly increase the distance that you run
  • Knee - Repeated jumping or overuse during running, basketball, or racket sports
  • Elbow - Gripping with the hand and twisting the forearm during racket sports, or using a screwdriver
  • Elbow and wrist - Typing on a keyboard or lifting an infant

Risk Factors

Risk Factors

Activities and health conditions that can increase your risk of developing tendonitis include:

  • Starting a new sport or physical activity, or increasing the intensity of exercise
  • A job that involves repetitive motions, such as plumbing, painting, or carpentry
  • Being overweight, as excess weight puts strain on the body’s joints
  • Smoking cigarettes (can delay tendon healing)
  • Chronic health conditions, including diabetes and arthritis
  • Previous tendon injuries
  • Age over 40



To prevent tendonitis from returning, take a break from exercise until it has completely healed. You can help prevent tendonitis by:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Stretching before and after physical activity
  • Increasing exercise gradually
  • Using good form when running or playing sports
  • Learning how to use sports equipment and tools properly, and use equipment sized for your body
  • Setting up your desk, chair, and keyboard ergonomically and maintaining a good posture
  • Stopping any activity that causes pain
Get Care

Trust NewYork-Presbyterian for Tendonitis Care

The orthopedic specialists at NewYork-Presbyterian are experts in joint care and sports medicine. They will carefully evaluate your tendonitis symptoms to make an accurate diagnosis and customize a plan for your recovery. Contact us today for an appointment.