Tendons are fibrous cords that connect your muscles to your bones. They play a significant role in your mobility, including your ability to twist and bend. Occasionally, your tendons can become inflamed from overuse or exertion leading to a condition called tendonitis. This can leave you feeling sore and unable to complete your daily tasks. In the case of athletes, tendonitis can affect their performance and even keep them off the field.

Spinal tendonitis results from the inflammation of the tendons in your back. Because of the critical nature of our spines to our mobility and wellbeing, it’s important to get a tendonitis diagnosis and follow a treatment plan before this condition becomes more severe. This guide will walk you through the various symptoms and solutions to a spinal tendonitis case. Know your options so you can embrace comprehensive pain management strategies. 


Understanding Spinal Tendonitis

There are two main causes of spinal tendonitis. The first is a sudden injury to the back muscles or your spine. Your tendons could feel sore and limit your ability to move while they are inflamed. The second cause is overuse. Prolonged repetitive motions can exhaust your tendons and leave them feeling sore. For example, tennis elbow is a form of tendonitis that occurs from repetitive arm motions. 

Patients can develop acute or chronic spinal tendonitis. Acute spinal tendonitis is often brought on by a single action and causes temporary pain. Chronic spinal tendonitis can last for several months, especially when left untreated. While acute spinal tendonitis is often the result of a sudden injury or overuse, chronic tendonitis can develop due to degenerative changes in the body as you age. Inflammation due to wear and tear is a natural part of getting older. 


Symptoms and Diagnosis

One of the best ways to treat spinal tendonitis is to identify this condition early on. knowing the warning signs can help you reduce the effects of inflammation, avoid the worsening of symptoms, and feel more comfortable. Here’s what you need to know. 

Common Symptoms of Spinal Tendonitis

Spinal tendonitis frequently presents as back pain. However, it is important to identify specifically how your back feels and where the pain is located. Patients who experience tendonitis often feel localized pain in a specific area of their spine. This area can be tender to the touch. You also might experience stiffness in your back, which leads to a limited range of motion. 

Because tendonitis is a form of inflammation, you may notice swelling, redness, or warmth around the affected tendons. this is your body trying to recover from the injury or overuse. 

Diagnostic Process

Talk to your doctor if you are concerned about spinal tendonitis. An experienced spinal neurosurgeon like Dr. Todd H. Lanman will conduct a physical exam of the affected area and consider whether spinal tendonitis is the source of your pain. Your doctor may order imaging tests, including an MRI or ultrasound, which can visualize tendon damage. This will give your doctors a clearer picture of your spine. Once you have a diagnosis, you can move forward with a treatment plan. 


Risk Factors and Prevention

Certain groups are more likely to develop spinal tendonitis. While your risk of developing this condition increases as you age, young and fit people can develop tendonitis through their jobs or hobbies. If you complete several repeated motions throughout the workday (like loading boxes onto a truck) you can develop tendonitis. This condition is also commonly found at the gym in people who suddenly increase their physical activity, don’t rest enough, or have poor form.

The good news is that there are several ways to reduce your risk of developing tendonitis. First, make ergonomic adjustments to your workspace or your exercises. This includes working out in proper footwear or wearing a back brace when necessary. Make a habit of stretching, especially after performing repetitive tasks. You can also implement warm-up and cool-down routines if you’re about to engage in an activity that could cause a tendonitis flare-up. 

Finally, let your body rest. Take breaks in between workouts and rest your back during your breaks if your tendonitis is caused by your job. This will allow your tendons to heal. 


Non-Surgical Treatment Options

Most tendonitis cases do not need surgical intervention. You will likely be able to heal from this inflammation on your own with the right treatment plan. Here are a few steps your doctor might recommend. 

  • Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation (RICE) Protocol: The RICE method is often used to treat inflammation. You can ice your back and rest when it gets sore. 
  • Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Exercises: Your doctor may walk you through a series of exercises that strengthen the muscles around the affected area, or recommend visiting a physical therapist so you can develop the tools you need to restore your range of motion.
  • Pain Management Techniques: In some cases, your doctor might prescribe Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or corticosteroid injections. These treatments reduce your pain while targeting the inflammation. 

Your doctor will likely take a multi-tier approach to your treatment plan. This means they could recommend several steps, like the RICE method, pain management, and exercises. Multiple treatments working together can support the healing process. 


Surgical Treatment Options for Spinal Tendonitis

There are some cases where your doctor may recommend surgical intervention because of spinal tendonitis. Here is what you need to know if they decide to move forward with this treatment option. 

Indications for Surgery in Spinal Tendonitis Cases

Your doctor could recommend surgery for spinal tendonitis if your body does not respond to conservative treatments. They could also move forward with a surgical operation if you have severe tendon damage or structural abnormalities that are unlikely to heal naturally. If the tendonitis is so severe that it impacts your day-to-day life, your doctor may decide to move forward with surgery. 

Types of Surgical Procedures

Your doctor will walk you through the tendon repair surgery they intend to complete. This includes reattaching the damaged tendons or sewing torn tendons together. Depending on your case, your doctor May recommend decompression surgery, which will relieve pressure on the affected nerves. The type of surgery you need will depend on your tendon injury and their top recommendations to support the healing process. 

Post-Surgical Rehabilitation and Recovery

Even if your doctor recommends surgery for your spinal tendonitis, you will still need to move forward with a rehabilitation and recovery program. This includes the various activities mentioned above, like resting your back, treating the site of inflammation with ice, and practicing physical therapy exercises. 

As you work through the recovery process, you may gradually return to the activities and sports you love. Make sure your doctor approves your return to activity and discuss any pain that comes from it. It is better to take a slower approach to rehabilitation than to try and rush the healing process.  


Lifestyle Modifications and Self-Care

You can still enjoy your favorite activities even if they can trigger spinal tendonitis. Along with resting and stretching, you can reduce your risk of worsening this condition by embracing healthy habits in other parts of your life. Here are a few modifications and self-care steps to consider. 

Ergonomic Considerations for Pain Management

Proper posture and correct form can take pressure off your spine and reduce your risk of tendonitis. Make sure this condition wasn’t caused by an incorrect form that hurt your back. 

When possible, use supportive equipment, like ergonomic chairs or lumbar cushions, to protect your spine. You may be able to get health accommodations for supportive equipment at work if you need to continue the repetitive motion. 

Nutrition and Exercise Guidelines for Tendon Health

Other aspects of your life can reduce your risk of spinal tendonitis. Drink plenty of water and eat a balanced diet that is rich in nutrients and protein. This will give your body the fuel it needs to heal after a workout or strenuous activity. You can also embrace other low-impact exercises that support your muscles and cardio health. Finally, if you smoke, take steps to quit. You might be shocked at how your health improves afterward. 


Tips for Athletes to Prevent Tendonitis & Recovery Protocols

Spinal tendonitis is common in athletes who often perform the same motion several times throughout a game. For example, a baseball player could develop back pain from swinging a bat daily, while a golfer could experience tendonitis because of their swing. There are a few best practices that athletes can follow to treat spinal tendonitis so they perform at elite levels. 

Training Modifications to Prevent Tendonitis

The first step to reduce the risk of tendonitis in athletes is to gradually increase the intensity of their performance and workouts. Using baseball as an example, players can reduce their risk of injury by warming up slowly during Spring Training or continuing to practice in the offseason. 

Cross-training is also a valuable technique to prevent overuse injuries. This is the practice of incorporating different exercises into your routine that activate the same muscles, but in a different way. Cross-training is a useful tool for building up muscle strength without risking overuse injuries. 

Rehabilitation Protocols for Athletes Recovering from Spinal Tendonitis

If an athlete develops spinal tendonitis, they need to rest their back. It is better to step away from the field and let the inflammation subside than to push through the pain, which could further aggravate the injury. 

When the athlete is ready to return to the game, it is essential that they gradually return to play. This means playing for a few minutes at a time instead of staying in for the entire game. Personal trainers and team doctors can support athletes during this return process to decrease the chances of spinal tendonitis returning.

Team staff can also help athletes maintain proper form and develop healthy habits that can reduce the risk of inflammation in the future. even athletes who don’t have a history of spinal tendonitis can adopt these best practices.


Take Control of Your Spinal Health with ADR Spine

Spinal tendonitis has multiple causes but is often triggered by repetitive motions and overuse. You can reduce your risk of developing this condition by resting after exerting your back and embracing healthy stretching habits. This condition rarely needs surgery and can often be treated with rest, ice, and utilizing proper lifting form. 

Preventing and treating spinal tendonitis supports your overall back health and can reduce your risk of developing other spinal complications. It is better to seek help for your tendonitis, even if you think your condition is mild. Your doctor can provide a personalized treatment plan that makes you feel better while developing good habits for the future. Knowledge empowers decision-making and you can take your health into your own hands. 

If you live with back pain, request a consultation with Dr. Lanman today to discuss your spinal health. This small step could put you on the path to healing and help you embrace your favorite activities again.


FAQs About Spinal Tendonitis

What are the main causes of spinal tendonitis?

The three main causes of spinal tendonitis are sudden injury, prolonged overuse, and age. Acute tendonitis often forms because of an injury or changes in movement, while chronic tendonitis builds over time. 

How is spinal tendonitis diagnosed and treated?

Your doctor will conduct a physical exam if you have spinal tendonitis. They might also request an MRI or ultrasound to examine your spine in greater detail. Spinal tendonitis is often treated without surgery. Your doctor may prescribe pain or anti-inflammatory medication and encourage you to rest your back. 

Can spinal tendonitis be prevented, especially for athletes?

Spinal tendonitis is preventable in many cases. Athletes are encouraged to embrace proper stretching techniques and work with training staff to maintain good physical form. Tendonitis can also be prevented by resting and avoiding overuse. This can be challenging for athletes who constantly want to be in the game. 

What are the differences between acute and chronic spinal tendonitis?

Acute tendonitis is usually caused by a specific injury or duration of overuse. Patients can often point to the cause of their back pain. Chronic tendonitis builds up over time due to repetitive motions or natural wear from age. It can last several months and get worse if untreated. 

Are there any alternative therapies or home remedies for spinal tendonitis?

Yes. The best home remedy for spinal tendonitis is rest. Letting the tendons heal will help the inflammation go down, making your back less sensitive. Other natural remedies include icing the sore tendons, completing back stretches, and attending physical therapy to support healthy movements.


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