Tendonitis is a painful condition resulting from inflammation of the tendons. Tendons are thick bands of strong fibrous tissue that link bone to muscle. Although they are designed to withstand extreme pressure, certain circumstances will produce swelling and pain in the area. Sometimes performing the same movements repetitively over a long period of time can lead to tendonitis. At other times, a sudden or jarring traumatic event can be the cause.
Repetitive motions from activities like gardening, cleaning, typing, and using the computer can lead to achy, inflamed tendons. Bad posture and not properly stretching before a substantial workout may also be a factor in the condition. As well, some diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA) or diabetes may lead to tendonitis.
Those over 40 years old are at a higher risk for developing tendonitis. Collagen fibers provide the force that binds all the components of the tendons together, but become weaker and less resistant to stress as we age. The result can be more tears and trauma inflicted on the tendons.
The areas most commonly prone to tendonitis include the base of the thumb, elbows, shoulders, hips, knees and the Achilles tendon. The Achilles tendon is located on the back of the foot, just above the heel. No matter what body part is affected, acupuncture and Oriental medicine may help provide relief and speed up recovery time.
According to the philosophy of acupuncture and Oriental medicine, conditions of pain may be caused by cold or heat, so one of the first things to be determined is whether the afflicted tendon is suffering from a hot or a cold condition. To help explain this, envision an avid tennis player with a red, swollen elbow. The pain is so bad that the arm cannot be used properly. There is visible swelling and the area is warm to the touch. This would clearly indicate a condition of heat, so massage and heat therapies would only aggravate the pain.
Now picture a retired gardener with pain in his right elbow. The pain is in a fixed location and slight swelling is visible. His body often feels cold, especially his hands and the elbow with tendonitis. Chilly, damp nights increase the levels of pain to the point where he needs to take pain relievers. Light massage and heat therapies alleviate the pain and feel good when applied. All factors point to a condition of cold. These two patients will receive largely different treatments since they do not share the same diagnosis.
The tennis player could have an acupuncture point called Heart 8 activated by a needle. Utilizing Heart 8 can help reduce heat and inflammation since it is located right near the elbow. It is one of the ying spring acupuncture points, meaning it has the ability to clear heat from the entire channel. A channel is a fixed pathway which transports life-sustaining energy. This energy is also known as Qi. Once the inflammation is reduced, the pain, redness and stiffness should follow suit.
For the elderly gardener, moxibustion therapy may provide the best solution. This therapy provides medicinal heat and smoke by burning small amounts of the herb mugwort. It is believed that smoke and heat from the burning herb penetrate the skin and enter the body. Once inside, an immune response is initiated which helps disperse any painful blockages. Once blood and Qi are able to flow freely, the pain should decrease as the mobility and range of motion increase.
There may be some acupuncture points that are appropriate to treat both these patients. A practitioner of acupuncture and Oriental medicine may find the use of the point Gall Bladder 34 beneficial in both these cases. This point is credited with the ability to nourish and restore all the tendons and sinews of the entire body, regardless of whether there is an issue with hot or cold.
If you experience stiff thumbs worsening on cold, winter nights, find your knees unable to take the pressure of your workout routine or worry you may have other symptoms of tendonitis, contact an acupuncturist to see what acupuncture and Oriental medicine can do for you!
About the Author: Vanessa Vogel Batt, L.Ac., MSTOM, studied at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, and practiced acupuncture and Oriental medicine in New York for several years. Vanessa enjoys traveling the world, and has published articles on acupuncture and Oriental medicine and related health topics for websites and publications in both the U.S. and abroad.