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  • Writer's pictureDr. Terrell Joseph

Tendinitis: What Causes Pain and Swelling in the Wrist and Elbow

Woman with tendonitis holding her painful wrist

Tendinitis is inflammation of the tendons connecting your bones to your muscles. In the Vail Valley, tendinitis is very common in our active, outdoor population. While tendinitis can impact any joint, including wrists, elbows, thighs, and fingers, Eagle County patients typically experience it in the wrist and elbow.

So what is tendinitis? Why does it cause pain in the wrist and elbow? And what can be done to treat this condition so you can get back to doing the activities you love?

How Does Tendinitis Cause Pain in the Wrist or Pain in the Elbow?

Tendons are the thick connective tissue that attaches muscles to bones. They work with your muscles to exert a force on your bones, making you move. Injury or overuse can place strain on the tendon, causing it to become irritated or inflamed.

This is tendinitis. Different types of tendinitis cause pain in different parts of the body. This can include:

  • Pain in the outer side of the elbow. Also known as “tennis elbow,” lateral epicondylitis is tendinitis that impacts the outer elbow - potentially causing pain that radiates all the way down towards the wrist.

  • Pain radiating down the wrist to the inner side of the elbow. Medial epicondylitis (aka “golfer’s elbow) affects the inner elbow with pain more pronounced when trying to lift against a force.

  • Pain between the thumb and the wrist. Known as De Quervain’s tenosynovitis, this tendinitis causes swelling in the tendons between the thumb and wrist. The main symptom of this tendinitis is pain when moving the thumb.

  • Pain in the trigger finger or thumb. Tendinitis in the thumb or trigger finger causes the appendage to “click” when straightened or fixed in a bent position. Patients may also notice a lump in the tendon that runs through the palm.

Aside from pain that worsens with movement, other symptoms of tendinitis include:

  • A feeling of crackling or grating

  • Dull aching near the joint

  • Redness, heat, tenderness, and swelling

  • Nodules (lumps) appearing along the tendon

Since tendinitis is caused by overuse, repetitive motion, or injury, it can occur at any age. In the Vail community, it is more common in our active adult population. If left untreated, tendinitis can cause a rupture in the tendon and require surgery.

Treatment Options for Tendinitis in the Vail Valley

If symptoms don’t improve after a few days of rest and icing, it’s time to make an appointment with an orthopaedic physician. In the Vail Valley and Eagle County, Dr. Joseph is the most trusted tendinitis specialist in the area.

At your appointment, Dr. Joseph will examine the area of pain, focusing on tenderness and range of motion. He will ask you about the following:

  • Your level of physical activity, including any sports you may play

  • Injuries (both past and recent) to the area

  • Home remedies you’ve attempted

If your tendinitis is severe, Dr. Joseph may recommend one of the following treatment options:

  • Splinting or bracing the affected joint

  • Corticosteroid injections

  • Physical therapy

  • Surgery to remove inflamed tissue

When treated early and properly, tendinitis can resolve quickly. Some patients report almost instantaneous relief after a single corticosteroid injection.

Pain in the Wrist or Elbow? Contact Vail’s Most Trust Physician

If you are experiencing pain in the wrist, elbow, or fingers that may be caused by tendinitis, contact Dr. Joseph today!

He and his team will work with you to accurately diagnose your symptoms and quickly treat your condition so you can get back to doing the activities you love.

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