Tendonitis: Diagnosis & Tests

If you think you might have tendonitis, your doctor will administer a physical exam, which is usually enough to make a proper diagnosis and rule out other possible conditions. Your doctor will check for signs of pain and tenderness when the muscle attached to your affected tendon is used against some resistance. According to the American College of Rheumatology, “tenderness along the tendon or its sheath (outer covering), or at one specific point in the tendon, suggests tendonitis.” The College of Rheumatology also says most patients do not need imaging tests such as X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or ultrasound scans. Imaging and blood tests are performed only if the problem recurs or does not go away

Ultrasound: Your doctor may order an ultrasound to verify the severity of the damage to your tendon. Ultrasound emits no radiation, relying on the shadows cast by inaudible sound waves.

MRI: Your doctor may order an MRI scan to look more closely at the damage to your tendon. The MRI machine moves along the body using magnetic waves to take images, which generate a two- or three-dimensional image that can be viewed as a series of cross-sections. It does not involve radiation exposure.

The ultrasound and MRI tests also can help determine whether or not you have other conditions that can cause similar symptoms, such as bursitis (inflammation of the fluid that surrounds your joints).

Other Tests

According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, other tests your doctor may order to diagnose tendonitis may include a selective tissue tension test to find out which tendon is affected, an X-ray to rule out arthritis or bone problems and an anesthetic injection test to see if your pain goes away. In some cases, if the problem does not clear up, blood tests may be necessary.

“It was painful, but with the proper diagnosis and treatment, I recovered. After my injury, I was told not to run or cycle,” said Andrew, who recently recovered from Achilles tendonitis. “After having an ultrasound, X-ray and MRI, I was advised to take it easy and to not put pressure on my foot for eight weeks, as I would be re-injuring it. An anti-inflammatory medication was suggested, as well as massage of the area three to four times per day. I needed to ice the area three to four times per day for 10 to 15 minutes. I was given heel inserts for my shoes to elevate my heel and take the load off the tendon.”

Lisa Cantkier, CHN is a certified holistic nutritionist and a health and wellness editor.

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