Can massage therapy help tendonitis?

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To those unfortunate enough to suffer from tendonitis, the pain endured can put quite a damper on your overall mobility, aside from keeping you from your routine workout. Even if you’ve luckily avoided this condition, the different limbs of your body are always at risk for tendonitis, especially depending on your exercises or sports of choice. When tendons become inflamed, the pain can be next to unbearable, and treatment sources for moderate injuries typically are limited to prescribed medications along with long icing sessions. However, there has been recent research that indicates how receiving a deep tissue massage may be able to not only alleviate symptoms of tendonitis, but also to keep it from coming back. Here’s a quick overview into how to avoid experiencing tendonitis while exercising, as well as how massage may be a sufficient source for athletic recovery after being diagnosed with the condition:

Risk factors for tendonitis

For those unaware, tendonitis occurs when a tendon that attaches the muscle to the bone becomes inflamed. Usually this is the result of repetitive movement or pressure put on the tendon, and can be an extremely common setback experienced by people who are always active. There are several variations of tendonitis depending on which region the tendon is injured in. The University of Maryland Medical Center states that the most common types of tendonitis injuries are rotator cuff tendinitis (shoulder), tennis elbow (elbow), De Quervain’s disease (wrist or thumb), jumper’s knee (knee) or Achilles tendinitis (ankle).

Typical indications of tendonitis include pain, tenderness, swelling, warmth, redness or crackling sounds noticed near joints. Besides being frequently active, the other big risk factors for tendonitis are described by the Mayo Clinic as people whose jobs tend to include repetitive motion or constant forceful exertion, older adults and people who routinely engage in sports or recreational activities that involve unnatural movements, such as throwing a baseball or bending a tennis racket.

Treating tendonitis through massage

In most cases of tendonitis, the general rule of thumb for treatment tends to be the classic ritual known in the medical community as RICE. RICE stands for rest, ice, compress and elevate, which has been proven to help reduce the amounts of swelling and soreness that are taking place. Other typical sources for treatment involve taking recommended amounts of over-the-counter drugs such as ibuprofen or aspirin, but when tendonitis is becoming a recurring issue, these classic types of relief may not do the trick.

This is where massage therapy has been noted as a possible means for not only soothing the painful symptoms tendonitis may cause, but also for working to stimulate the natural healing process that occurs in your body. Researchers from the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine have analyzed the potential ways massages can help with stretched and sore tendons. One of the types of massages in particular noted by the PCOM has been a variation of self massage known as friction massage therapy. Generally used for tendonitis in the elbow, shoulder, back of the heel or wrist, this form of massage uses gentle strokes with the fingers and thumb, applying pressure back and forth in an attempt to boost the production of collagen, the structural protein of connective tissues that helps alleviate damaged tendon fibers.

When it comes to the potential pain that can be experienced with Achilles tendinitis, the Institute for Integrative Healthcare suggests that different types of sports massage have been known to significantly decrease the levels of stress and discomfort produced by the condition. In particular, the organization noted that applying a strain-counterstrain sports massage technique along the sore muscles of the calf can help unload excess stress that has been placed upon the damaged tendons within the Achilles. It’s also been reported in a study published by The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association that this type of strain-counterstrain technique was able to generate a 23.1 percent decrease in stress experienced in subjects dealing with Achilles tendinitis.

One of the main reasons massage therapy continues to be alluded to as a potential resource for anyone stricken with tendonitis is that the various techniques of muscle manipulation stimulate blood flow, which in turn reduces the rates of swelling in inflamed tendons. It’s important to note that before seeking out the services of massage therapy for your particular case of tendonitis, you should consult with your physician to see if this type of treatment is right for your condition. In minor cases, the usual RICE routine plus some over-the-counter medication can do the trick. However, consider speaking with your doctor about the potential of massage therapy if tendonitis continues to be a problem. When seeking out a massage therapist, make sure to find one who has experience in servicing patients dealing with tendonitis.

Jill Lohmann is a Director of Operations for Accelerated Rehabilitation Centers and a certified physical therapist. Accelerated Rehabilitation Centers is a physical therapist owned and operated rehabilitation company with a network of 170 outpatient rehabilitation centers located throughout the Midwest, Arizona and Georgia.