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Exercising with a Challenge: Tendinitis

Beth Bradford

Dec 26, 2022

Struggling with tendinitis? Don't let it stop you from working out!

If you engage in any sport that involves repetitive movements, you’ve probably had tendonitis at one time or another. You might feel tendinitis in your shoulder, elbow, wrist, knees, or heels (via Mayo Clinic). Golfers, tennis players, and runners (like me) can easily strain our tendons when the muscles strengthen much faster than the tendons are ready. Taking steroids can also strain the tendons (via GMB Fitness).

If you ignore tendonitis, you could develop tendinosis, where the fibers of the tendon thicken and scar (via Baptist Health). Even worse, the tendon could tear altogether. Ouch. Although it’s important to take care of your tendonitis, it doesn’t mean that you need to skip a workout. You’ll need to modify your workouts so that your body can heal.

For example, if you’re a tennis player and have tendonitis in your elbow, you could work your lower body while rehabilitating your hand and elbow, according to Merivale Hand Clinic. Some good cardio might help circulate the blood flow, but avoid rowing machines or anything that needs your grip. Even cycling might add strain to that area because your hand needs to grip the handlebars.

I had a small tear in my Achilles several years ago, which was a result of my ignoring tendonitis pain. I was stuck in a boot for six weeks and couldn’t run for three months. I couldn’t even do yoga. Instead, I focused on swimming and upper body weights. I didn’t gain any weight during those three months (which was my biggest fear) because my body was loving the added muscle and the full-body swimming workouts.

When to resume training after tendonitis

It’s best to listen to your doctor when you can resume training. Starting back too soon can set you back even more. If you didn’t see a doctor about your tendonitis pain, Jacksonville Orthopaedic Institute says you can resume training when you can gently stretch the affected area without pain. You probably won’t be able to resume your regular workouts, so start lighter. If you’re used to running six miles, start with just one at a slower pace. 

You should also address any imbalances that might have caused the tendonitis to begin with, according to Sports M.D. For example, I noticed that I had been favoring one leg, which put added stress on my Achilles tendon. Golfers or tennis players might notice something had changed in their form. It’s also important to see if your training schedule, such as a sudden increase in intensity, caused your tendonitis. 

Similarly, the area around your tendonitis might have weakened from your reduced training load. GMB Fitness suggests using your recovery time to strengthen the muscles through the full range of motion so that the body moves efficiently. 

To prevent future tendonitis, incorporate more cross-training, stretching, and strength training, according to Mayo Clinic

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