Tendonitis is defined as “a condition in which the tissue connecting muscle to bone becomes inflamed”. Not only does it lead to swollen and sore joints, precluding you from training, but you can also end up injured. There are many different types and causes of tendonitis. 11 are discussed below so you can do your best to prevent yourself from suffering any of them.
This is a sort of patella tendonitis that results in pain in the lower part of the patella and is usually caused from too much bad jumping. “Bad jumping” can mean various things, from jumping too much, to jumps that are too high/ballistic, or even just not landing properly, absorbing too much shock through your knees. Mitigate your risk of developing this by learning how to land, getting proper recovery, jumping on softer surfaces, and keeping your total jumping volume in check.
Any time you repeat the same motion hundreds of times per day, you leave yourself open to developing tendonitis. This is why some of the body weight exercise fanatics who do hundreds of push ups or thousands of squats daily can end up with bad elbows or hips. Fend this off by continually changing up exercises, movement patterns, and ranges of motion. If nothing else, try to ensure you take adequate rests to break up the constant activity.
You feel this in the front of the deltoid where the top of the biceps ties into the shoulder joint. This often occurs in the gym when you’ve done too much upper body pulling work (especially with a curl grip) with too much weight or bad form. If you start to experience this, back off on these exercises for a couple/few weeks to let the area recover. You can still do biceps and lat work, just go lighter and pick different movements for awhile.
Awkward Positions and Ranges of Motion
Tendonitis can be caused when you start doing new exercises that you’re not used to doing, with improper form, or in positions that you’re not necessarily flexible enough for, yet. Examples could include full squats or snatch-grip overhead work. Take your time with these exercises and don’t do too much, too fast. If there are intermediate steps you can take (such as doing “power” versions of Olympic lifts before the “full” versions), then utilize them when possible.
This isn’t something you’ll necessarily run into at the gym, but if you’re exposed to continuous vibration at work or in your personal life, then tendonitis could develop. Examples would be holding a tattoo gun, using certain power tools, or riding a motorcycle a lot. Minimize risk by taking constant breaks, massaging the forearms, and icing at the end of the day.
Shin splits occur when you experience too much ballistic shock combined with excessive contraction of the soleus muscle on the tibia. You see this often with athletes who start running too much or too hard without easing their way into it. Icing at the end of the day helps, but complete rest is almost always going to be the best way to recover. Changing your footwear has been known to help, as well.
A common theme thus far has been that various types of tendonitis can occur when you experience too much ballistic shock. However, this isn’t just when landing jumps, steps, or when your bodyweight comes down to the ground too hard. Any time you’re moving weight too fast to complete extension, it can cause ballistic shock to your joints. Examples could include a push press that’s snapped hard overhead. Even a bench press that’s too explosive could be hard on the shoulders and elbows.
You can minimize this various ways. One way is to modify how you land your jumps, as noted above. Aside from that, instead of pressing weights quickly, throw a medicine ball. Releasing the ball lets inertia travel with it, instead of sending shock waves through your body. Something else you could do would be to attach bands to the bar. This will force you to constantly accelerate, but will keep you from moving so fast that ballistic shock could ill affect your body.
Often seen with shin splints, Achilles tendonitis is characterized by pain in or between the heel and calf. It occurs mostly in very active trainees who run, squat, jump, and so on in shoes that don’t properly support the foot. Keep this from happening by either easing your way into your activity so as to build up better foot and ankle strength and/or wearing better shoes.
Tennis Elbow and Golfer’s Elbow
Any time you do a lot of hand gripping or turning of the wrist, you can experience one of these two. This is why they can be common amongst grip training aficionados. Tennis elbow is pain in the outer elbow, while golfer’s elbow is pain in the inner elbow. If you start to have either of these, try to take some time off from the activity and ice at night.
Rotator Cuff Tendonitis
This is characterized by pain in the rotator cuff, and is generally caused when you’ve done too heavy or too much activity directly affecting the shoulder joint. Putting the shoulder joint in an unstable position (such as awkwardly un-racking a bar from a behind the neck press bench) can cause issues, too. This can be a dangerous one, as if left unchecked, can very easily lead to further shoulder impingement issues. Read about some rotator cuff exercises here.
Not Properly Warming Up
While all of the above can affect your joints, they do so even more when you’re not warmed up. Tendons are not as pliable and receptive to external stimulus when they’re cold, so the same ballistic shock or repeated movement pattern can cause more trauma than they would if you’d warmed up beforehand.
Be sure to start each workout or activity by elevating your core temperature and getting limber, first. A good approach would be a little bit of light cardio, followed by a dynamic warm up. Leg swings, fire hydrant circles, rollovers into v-sits, and even a few calisthenics would all work well.
Tendonitis affects many trainees, so take steps to ensure it doesn’t slow you down. Start off any training with a proper warm up, and ease into whatever activity you’re doing that day. Keep the forceful shock as well as total volume you do in line. Always use proper form, take adequate breaks, and employ recovery techniques as needed. If nothing else, watch your joints for the first sign of pain, and make any necessary modifications as early as possible to avoid further damage.