There are many tendons that flex and extend the fingers and wrist. Due to overuse or an injury, these tendons can become inflamed and result in tendonitis. This results in pain when doing certain movements and activities.
Tendinitis normally affects the elbow, finger, wrist, thigh and other parts of the body. There are different types of tendinitis problems that could occur, such as:
- Supraspinatus tendinitis – This occurs when the rotator cuff tendon around the shoulder joint is inflamed, which then causes pain when moving the arm.
- Tennis or golfer's elbow – This is a condition that causes pain on the outer of the inner side of the elbow which may radiate down to the wrist. The pain may be more acute with activity.
- De Quervain's stenosing tenosynovitis – This is a condition where the sheath between the thumb and wrist is inflamed. The thickened sheath and swelling in the affected area leads to painful movement of the thumb. This condition is discussed separately.
If a tendon tear or rupture is suspected, a gap may be felt in the line of the tendon, which will result in difficulties in moving the fingers or hand. Risk factors for tendonitis include participating in sports that involve repetitive movements, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and age. As we grow older tendons become less flexible, making them susceptible to injury.
A comprehensive physical examination and an x-ray may be used to make an accurate diagnosis. The x-ray may reveal calcium deposits around the tendon, which assist in confirming the diagnosis. Ultrasound and MRI are also of value in assessing a tendon. Tendonitis is almost always successfully treated with conservative methods. This involves activity modification, stretching, eccentric exercises and possibly a corticosteroid injection. Surgery or shock wave therapy is rarely required. If required, it is usually a small operation to remove the tendonitis.