For bodybuilding purposes, tendonitis is an overuse injury that results in inflammation of the tendon and, of course, discomfort and pain. This injury is most likely to occur when a person changes the type, intensity, or duration of their training. As far as overuse injuries go, these result from repetitive microtrauma that leads to inflammation and/or local tissue damage in the form of cellular and extracellular degeneration.
We all know steroids increase your strength dramatically as soon as you start taking them. The thing is, while your muscles are usually capable of supporting this enhanced strength right away, your tendons need much more time to get stronger. If you are not careful, this may lead to all sorts of injuries, ranging from light inflammation, tendonitis, all the way to complete rupture.
Technically, tendonitis can occur on every joint of the body, but the most common joints to be affected are the shoulders, elbows, wrists, knees and ankles. I’m sure each and every one of us has experienced some discomfort in at least one of these joints after a workout.
If you are suffering from tendonitis and look for help, this is what the standard treatment will look like:
- NSAIDs (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs): your typical over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs, including aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, nabumetone. These seem to be counter productive for your results as they hinder your body’s inflammatory response from your training sessions;
- RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation): works to a certain point, but not everybody can afford to rest because of their other daily activities;
- Ultrasound therapy: the use of high frequency ultrasounds can be helpful to identify and break damaged tissue, allowing the tendon to heal with time;
- Interferential current: this is the most common type of electrical muscle and tendon stimulation, used to treat chronic pain and inflammation;
- Cross-friction massage: a kind of deep tissue massage working across the tendon that provides some relief;
- Acupuncture: traditional Japanese technique that may alleviate the symptoms of tendonitis;
- Cortisone shots: if the pain persists, or is very acute, a doctor can inject cortisone around the joint to relieve some of the pain and inflammation;
- Surgery: used as a last resource, as it is a very invasive method and needs several weeks of down time.
Unfortunately, about 25% of the patients do not respond to any of the traditional methods. An alternative form of treatment that has been showing significant success relies on the eccentric part of training with weights. This method has you doing the concentric part of the movement with both of your limbs (assuming one is affected by tendonitis and the other not), but letting your affected limb do the eccentric part by itself. Of course, the load needs to be added according to the strength of one limb only. At first, this will be very painful, but as time goes by, you will see the pain going away and the strength of your tendon getting back to near what it used to be. A Swedish study showed that runners with Achilles heel tendonitis went from a pain perception of 81 (out of 100) to 4 in just 12 weeks, while regaining about 95% of that tendon’s strength when compared to the healthy one. After a two-year follow-up, 14 out of the 15 runners were still running pain free, while one of them had to go thru surgery.
As we can see, tendonitis can be a crippling condition if untreated, effectively making it impossible for you to train and achieve your desired results. There are plenty of standard options of treatment, each with its downsides. The eccentric method, in my opinion, is the best, but if you’re going to try it, I strongly suggest that you talk to your doctor or physical therapist first, just to be sure.