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Repetitive Motion Injuries

Medical Treatment

Tendinitis is best treated with immobilization and ice during the early phase and moist heat during the long-term phase. 

  • Bands placed around the elbow may be used for tennis elbow and golfer's elbow.
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs, such as aspirin, naproxen, or ibuprofen) may be prescribed to reduce the inflammation. All NSAIDs should be taken with food or milk to avoid stomach upset.
  • If your tendinitis or bursitis is not helped by NSAIDs, the doctor may choose to inject steroids into the surrounding area of inflammation. As a rule, you should not have more than 3 injections into the same area within a 12-month period.
  • You should begin graduated range-of-motion exercise once your symptoms begin to improve.
  • An exception to this type of treatment is shoulder involvement.
    • The shoulder should not be immobilized for more than 24-48 hours in order to minimize frozen shoulder, called adhesive capsulitis.
    • You should have physical therapy in addition to ultrasound and warm water baths.
    • The goal in treatment of shoulder tendinitis is first and foremost to maintain full range of motion of the shoulder joint. Relieving the symptoms is secondary.

The treatment of inflammatory bursitis is similar to that of tendinitis.

  • Use rest and ice, and elevate your arm or leg.
  • Alternative treatments include pain-killing creams, capsaicin cream (an over-the-counter pain relief cream made from an ingredient of cayenne pepper), and steroid medications if you are able to take them.
  • If your bursitis is caused by an infection, treatment will include the appropriate antibiotics.
  • Steroid injection may be used but only for inflammatory bursitis. Steroid injections should be avoided in infectious bursitis because they may increase the body's susceptibility to infection.

Next Steps Prevention

The prevention of tendinitis and bursitis is similar in most respects.

  • Do adequate warm-up and cool-down maneuvers (crucial to proper tendon and bursae health).
  • Avoid activity that makes your injury flare up. This will speed healing of both tendinitis and bursitis.
    • If using a hedge clipper caused you pain, avoid this activity and others like it.
    • If reaching overhead in your work has caused a repetitive motion injury, your occupational health manager may be able to redesign your job so you won't have to reach overhead.
  • Practice range-of-motion exercises, especially with tendinitis. These are important to ensure minimal decrease in function.
  • Use splints or bands to decrease the strain on a tendon that occurs with sporting activities, such as tennis and golf. These devices may be bought over-the-counter or obtained from your doctor.

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