Tendons are structures that connect muscles to bones and help to support joints. As the joint moves, the moving muscle pulls and stretches the tendon. Repeated movement, especially in an awkward position, can irritate the tendon, causing inflammation and tendonitis. The pain can be quite severe and usually occurs when the joint is moved. Tendonitis can occur in any joint, although it often involves the wrist, elbow, shoulder, ankle, knee or hip joints.
Repetitive Stress Injuries
A tendon is a fibrous, dense tissue, rather like a cord, that transmits the pull of the muscle to the bone and causes movement. People of any age can get tendonitis and from a variety of activities. Typing or keyboarding for long hours, repeatedly using a backhand in a tennis game or failing to train properly before engaging in sports can stress the tendon and cause inflammation. Tendonitis is one of a group of injuries called a repetitive stress injury or RSI. Teens are particularly prone to RSIs in the hands, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians, because they use computers heavily, play video games, and text from phones and PDAs. Teens who play musical instruments may also be more susceptible to RSIs and tendonitis.
Teens are more likely to develop tendonitis and other RSIs in the growth plates of bones, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. Growth plates are the areas at the end of a bone where the cells multiply rapidly so the bone can become longer. Elbows, knees, shoulders and heels are typical areas where growth plates can make a teenager more susceptible to tendonitis. Any repetitive movement of these joints, from carrying a heavy tray while waiting tables to throwing a baseball in daily practice, can result in tendinitis. Teens may be more susceptible to injuries at growth plates because growth spurts may increase tension on the tendons.
Teens may be particularly susceptible to one type of tendonitis. Teens in the 7th to 12th grades spend an average of one hour and 35 minutes texting every day, according to a February 2011 article in the “Journal of Family Practice.” Teen girls, older teens and non-Hispanic blacks spend more time texting than other groups. The article reports that teens could develop tendonitis of the thumb due to intensive texting. Teens who texted with only one thumb were more likely to develop symptoms of tendonitis.
Tendonitis is usually treated conservatively. The joint must rest or the symptoms will continue. In some cases, this may mean using a splint or keeping weight off the affected joint. Teens should stop sports and other activities until the tendon heals. Ice may help relieve inflammation and pain. The American College of Rheumatology recommends applying ice once or twice a day for 10 to 15 minutes. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medicines such as aspirin, ibuprofen and acetaminophen may be helpful. Tendonitis that lasts more than a few weeks may cause limitation of movement in the joint; physical therapy may be necessary. If you think your teen has tendonitis and the symptoms do not go away within a few days, consult a physician.