Tenosynovitis / Tendonitis

Understanding Tenosynovitis and Tendonitis: A Comprehensive Guide

Tenosynovitis and tendonitis are conditions that both involve inflammation but affect different parts of the tendons, the strong cords that attach muscles to bones. While they share similarities, including symptoms and treatment approaches, it’s essential to distinguish between them for accurate diagnosis and management. This article explores the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of tenosynovitis and tendonitis, offering insights into these common yet often misunderstood conditions.

What is Tenosynovitis?

Tenosynovitis is the inflammation of the synovial sheath surrounding a tendon. This sheath produces synovial fluid that lubricates the tendon, facilitating smooth movements. When inflamed, the sheath can cause pain and restrict motion. Tenosynovitis is commonly seen in the hands, wrists, and feet and can result from repetitive use, injury, or inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.

What is Tendonitis?

Tendonitis, on the other hand, refers to inflammation of the tendon itself. It can occur in any tendon but is most frequently found in the shoulders, elbows, knees, and Achilles tendon. Tendonitis is typically caused by repetitive stress or sudden, severe injury. Overuse, age-related wear and tear, and certain activities or occupations that involve repetitive motions can increase the risk of developing tendonitis.

Symptoms of Tenosynovitis and Tendonitis

The symptoms of tenosynovitis and tendonitis are similar and may include:

  • Pain, especially with movement of the affected area
  • Swelling
  • Warmth and redness over the tendon
  • Stiffness
  • A grating or crackling sensation when moving the affected tendon (more common in tenosynovitis)


Diagnosis of tenosynovitis and tendonitis involves a physical examination and review of the patient’s medical history. The healthcare provider may also request imaging tests, such as ultrasound or MRI, to assess the extent of the inflammation and to rule out other conditions.


The treatment for tenosynovitis and tendonitis aims to reduce pain and inflammation and to restore mobility. Initial treatment typically includes:

  • Resting the affected tendon
  • Applying ice to reduce swelling
  • Using over-the-counter pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medications
  • Physical therapy exercises to strengthen the surrounding muscles and improve flexibility

In cases where conservative treatments do not provide relief, more invasive procedures, such as corticosteroid injections or surgery, may be considered.


Preventing tenosynovitis and tendonitis involves taking measures to reduce strain on the tendons, including:

  • Practising proper technique and posture during activities and work
  • Taking regular breaks to rest and stretch
  • Using ergonomic tools and equipment
  • Strengthening exercises to support the tendons and muscles

Understanding and addressing the early signs of tenosynovitis and tendonitis can significantly reduce the risk of chronic pain and mobility issues. If you suspect you have either condition, seeking early intervention from a healthcare professional is crucial.

For further reading, the Wikipedia page on Tendonitis provides additional information and context on this topic, illustrating the scientific and medical consensus on symptoms, treatment, and management strategies.

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