Physical Therapy for Tendonitis: Types and Benefits of It

Physical Therapy for Tendonitis: Types and Benefits of It

Tendonitis is a common condition that occurs when tendons, the thick cords that attach muscles to bones, become inflamed and irritated. This can result in pain, stiffness, and limited range of motion in the affected area. If left untreated, tendonitis can lead to chronic pain and potential long-term damage. In this article, we’ll explore the role of physical therapy in treating tendonitis and how it can aid in recovery.

Understanding Tendonitis

Understanding Tendonitis

Tendonitis, also spelled as “tendinitis,” is a medical condition characterized by inflammation and irritation of a tendon, which is the thick, fibrous tissue that connects muscle to bone.

Tendonitis commonly occurs in areas where tendons are subjected to repeated motion or overuse. This condition can cause pain, tenderness, and limited movement in the affected area. Here’s a deeper understanding of tendonitis:


Tendonitis is often caused by overuse or repetitive movements that strain the tendon. It can also result from sudden increases in physical activity, improper technique during exercise, or trauma.

Some common causes include sports activities, repetitive work tasks, and activities that involve repetitive gripping or lifting.


The primary symptoms of tendonitis include pain and tenderness in the affected tendon, especially during movement or when pressure is applied to the area.

Other symptoms may include stiffness, swelling, and a sensation of warmth around the affected area. The pain is typically localized and worsens with the specific movement that aggravates the inflamed tendon.

Common Locations

Tendonitis can affect various parts of the body. Some common locations include:

  • Tennis Elbow (Lateral Epicondylitis): Tendonitis on the outside of the elbow, often caused by repetitive wrist and arm movements.
  • Golfer’s Elbow (Medial Epicondylitis): Tendonitis on the inner side of the elbow, caused by similar repetitive motions as tennis elbow but affecting different tendons.
  • Achilles Tendonitis: Tendonitis in the Achilles tendon, which connects the calf muscles to the heel bone.
  • Rotator Cuff Tendonitis: Tendonitis in the shoulder’s rotator cuff tendons, is often seen in individuals who perform overhead arm movements frequently.


Treatment for tendonitis usually involves a combination of rest, pain management, and physical therapy. Other measures include:

  • Ice: Applying ice to the affected area can help reduce inflammation.
  • Rest: Resting the affected area and avoiding activities that worsen the pain can aid in the healing process.
  • Pain Medication: Over-the-counter pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medications may help alleviate discomfort.
  • Physical Therapy: Specific exercises can help strengthen the muscles and tendons, improving their ability to tolerate stress.

Benefits of Physical Therapy

Benefits of Physical Therapy

Physical therapy plays a crucial role in the management and recovery of tendonitis. It offers a variety of benefits that help individuals alleviate pain, restore function, and prevent future recurrences. Here are some of the key benefits of physical therapy for tendonitis:

1. Pain Relief: Physical therapists are skilled in using various techniques to reduce pain associated with tendonitis. They may use manual therapy techniques like soft tissue mobilization, massage, and joint mobilizations to alleviate discomfort in the affected area.

2. Improved Range of Motion: Tendonitis can lead to stiffness and limited range of motion in the affected joint. Physical therapists design tailored exercises and stretches to improve flexibility and restore normal movement patterns.

3. Strengthening Muscles and Tendons: Weak muscles and imbalances can contribute to tendonitis. Physical therapists develop exercise programs that target specific muscle groups to strengthen them, which helps relieve strain on the affected tendon. Gradually increasing the load on the tendon through appropriate exercises can stimulate tissue healing and adaptation.

4. Correcting Biomechanics: Sometimes, faulty movement patterns or poor biomechanics contribute to tendonitis. Physical therapists assess movement mechanics and posture to identify any issues that may be exacerbating the condition. They then provide guidance and exercises to correct these movement patterns, reducing strain on the affected tendon.

Physical Therapy Techniques

Physical therapists use a variety of techniques to effectively treat tendonitis and promote healing. These techniques are tailored to the individual’s specific condition and needs. Here are some common physical therapy techniques that may be used for tendonitis:

1. Manual Therapy: Manual therapy involves hands-on techniques to mobilize joints and soft tissues. For tendonitis, therapists may use techniques like:

  • Soft Tissue Mobilization: Applying pressure to the affected soft tissues to improve blood circulation, reduce muscle tension, and promote healing.
  • Joint Mobilization: Gentle movements of the affected joint to restore normal joint mechanics and reduce pain.

2. Therapeutic Exercises: Specific exercises are designed to strengthen muscles, improve flexibility, and promote healing of the affected tendon. These exercises are gradually progressed as the individual’s tolerance increases. Examples include:

  • Eccentric Exercises: These involve slowly lengthening the muscle-tendon unit while it’s under tension. Eccentric exercises are particularly effective for certain types of tendonitis, such as Achilles tendonitis.
  • Isometric Exercises: Muscle contractions without joint movement help maintain muscle strength without stressing the tendon excessively.
  • Strengthening Exercises: Targeting the muscles around the affected tendon helps provide better support and reduce strain on the tendon itself.

3. Stretching: Gentle stretching helps improve flexibility and reduce muscle imbalances that might be contributing to tendonitis. However, it’s important to avoid aggressive stretching that could worsen the condition.

4. Ultrasound: Therapeutic ultrasound uses sound waves to create deep heat within the affected tissues. This can increase blood flow, relax muscles, and promote healing.

5. Electrical Stimulation: Electrical stimulation techniques, such as transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), can help alleviate pain and reduce muscle spasms.

6. Iontophoresis: Iontophoresis involves applying a mild electrical current to deliver anti-inflammatory medications through the skin, targeting the inflamed tendon.

7. Cold Laser Therapy (Low-Level Laser Therapy): This technique uses low-level lasers to stimulate cellular activity and promote tissue healing. It’s believed to reduce inflammation and improve blood flow.

8. Kinesio Taping: Specialized tape is applied to the skin to provide support, reduce strain on the affected tendon, and improve blood circulation.

9. Functional Training: This focuses on improving the individual’s ability to perform everyday tasks without exacerbating their tendonitis. It may involve simulating work-related movements or sports activities.

10. Biomechanical Analysis and Correction: Therapists analyze movement patterns and identify any biomechanical issues contributing to tendonitis. They then guide how to correct these patterns to reduce strain on the affected tendon.

11. Education and Self-Management: Therapists educate patients about their condition, helping them understand the importance of rest, proper techniques, and pacing their activities to prevent overuse.

12. Home Exercise Programs: Therapists often create tailored exercise routines that patients can perform at home. Consistency with these exercises is essential for successful recovery.

Home Exercise Programs

Home Exercise Programs

Home exercise programs are an integral part of the rehabilitation process for tendonitis and other musculoskeletal conditions. These programs are designed by physical therapists to help individuals continue their recovery outside of formal therapy sessions.

Here are some general guidelines for creating and following a home exercise program for tendonitis:

Warm-Up: Always start with a gentle warm-up to increase blood flow and prepare your muscles and tendons for exercise. This can involve light cardio (e.g., brisk walking or stationary cycling) for about 5-10 minutes.

Stretching: Perform gentle stretching exercises to improve flexibility and prevent stiffness. Focus on the muscles and tendons surrounding the affected area. Hold each stretch for about 20-30 seconds and repeat 2-3 times.

Strengthening Exercises: Follow the prescribed strengthening exercises provided by your physical therapist. These exercises target the muscles around the affected tendon to provide support and reduce strain. Common exercises include:

  • Eccentric exercises (gradually lengthening the muscle-tendon unit).
  • Isometric exercises (muscle contractions without joint movement).
  • Resistance band exercises to build strength.

Frequency and Progression: Follow the recommended frequency and repetitions provided by your therapist. Begin with a manageable number of repetitions and gradually increase over time. Avoid pushing yourself too hard, especially if you experience pain.

The Role of the Physical Therapist

The role of a physical therapist (PT) is crucial in the assessment, treatment, and rehabilitation of various musculoskeletal and movement-related conditions, including tendonitis.

Physical therapists are trained healthcare professionals. They specialize in optimizing physical function, reducing pain, and improving the overall quality of life for their patients. When it comes to tendonitis, here’s the role a physical therapist plays:

  • Assessment and Diagnosis: Physical therapists assess the patient’s condition to determine the extent of the tendonitis and its underlying causes. They consider factors such as medical history, symptoms, physical limitations, movement patterns, and any contributing factors.
  • Individualized Treatment Plan: Based on the assessment, the physical therapist creates an individualized treatment plan tailored to the patient’s specific needs, goals, and condition. This plan may include various techniques and exercises to address pain, inflammation, muscle imbalances, and functional limitations associated with tendonitis.
  • Pain Management: Physical therapists employ various techniques, such as manual therapy, modalities (e.g., heat, cold, ultrasound), and exercises, to help manage and alleviate pain associated with tendonitis.
  • Exercise Prescription: Physical therapists design exercise programs that focus on strengthening muscles, improving flexibility, and correcting movement patterns. These exercises are carefully chosen to promote healing, restore function, and prevent further strain on the affected tendon.


Physical therapy is a cornerstone in the treatment of tendonitis. Through a combination of targeted exercises, hands-on techniques, and patient education, individuals can experience significant relief from pain and a return to their regular activities. If you’re struggling with tendonitis, consulting a skilled physical therapist could be the key to a faster and more complete recovery.

Physical Therapy helps patients recover from pain. If you’re experiencing Back, Shoulder, Knee, Neck, Elbow, Hip, or Arthritis pain, a physical therapist at PhysioMantra can help: Book an online physical therapy session.