Image of a man holding his arm in pain from tendonitis

How To Manage Working Out With Tendonitis

Last Updated December 3, 2016

Exercising is hard enough without adding a physical hindrance into the mix. Arthritis, high blood pressure, bad knees, back pain and several other issues can all ruin your workouts and make it hard to stick to a consistent exercise regimen. Several of these impairments cause pain and discomfort, but they can be worked around so that your physique and overall health doesn’t suffer due to your injury or condition. Tendonitis is no exception to this methodology. But how can it be accomplished? There a few different ideologies on training with tendonitis, so let’s take a look at the condition itself, then break down the different training principles that can be applied.

About Tendonitis

Tendonitis is a condition that causes your tendons to be inflamed, or swollen. The suffix “itis” is given to conditions that involve inflammation. Your tendons are the little strings in your body that connect muscle to bone, and when they become inflamed, it can cause dull to severe pain, especially in movement. The condition doesn’t usually affect the body all at once, it will generally affect a certain part, like the shoulder or arm. Tendonitis can hinder your workouts because of the pain you may feel in a certain part of the range of motion on an exercise. Doing the movement itself isn’t harmful, just painful.

The Concept of “Working Through The Pain”

It is common for people with tendonitis to work out at full intensity, simply ignoring the pain. This concept of “working through the pain”, while popular, is ultimately bad for your body. Trying to work through the pain of your tendonitis puts stress on the tendon, which makes it take longer to heal. If you’re rebuilding a bridge and constantly hitting the part you’re trying to fix with a sledgehammer, it’s going to take much longer.

Instead of working through the pain, find the range of motion that gives you discomfort and work up until that range of motion. For instance, if you have tendon pain at the very bottom range of motion for a bicep curl, start with the weight at the top of the movement, then lower until you hit the range of motion where you feel discomfort and come back up for a partial rep. This ideology can be adapted to any of the body parts, as partial reps can be performed on any exercise you can do a full rep on. Remember not to go down (or up) past the range of motion where you feel discomfort, or you’ll further agitate the tendon.

The Better Solution: Training Around The Pain

Tendonitis is generally localized to one area, like the shoulder or elbow. Fortunately, not all exercises involve the shoulder and elbow. One of the most popular training methodologies surrounding tendonitis is to simply give the tendon time to rest and heal by avoiding that body part. As an example, when you have tendonitis acting up in your shoulder and the tendon is inflamed, focus on lower body movements and isolation exercises for the arms and core – that way your shoulders are taken out of the rotation. Only cutting out isolation exercises for your shoulder won’t serve your purposes completely, as pretty much all upper-body compound movements involve the shoulder either as a mover or a stabilizer. This can be a great opportunity to bring up a lagging body part or work on your cardio and core strength.

Hitting The Pool Can Help

Working out in the pool isn’t just for prenatal and senior citizen fitness enthusiasts, it can help with tendonitis as well. Laugh in the face of gravity as you let buoyancy assist your joints with the exercise, decreasing the stress on your tendons and joints. Underwater exercise can be a great form of therapy and recuperation since you’re still moving weight, but you can manipulate the stress more and manage your range of motion way more efficiently. You shouldn’t be doing laps in the pool if you have a bum shoulder until your tendon recovers, but there are several weight training devices that were designed to be used in a pool.

Use Heat & Ice

Applying heat and ice to muscles as a way to control tightness, alleviate pain and reduce swelling is nothing new. With the application of heat and a hefty amount of stretching before exercise, your discomfort can be greatly reduced, giving you a broader range of motion and giving you an increased capacity to work your muscles and get those gains. Heat packs and other compresses work well for this. You can simply keep a wash cloth with you and run it under hot water and keep it on for a few minutes before stretching.

Ice can come after the workout. Ice is a natural combatant for swelling; and, sense tendonitis is just a case of the swellies in your tendons, ice can be a big help. About 20 minutes of 5-off-5-on should be sufficient to keep your swelling and discomfort to a minimum after training, or at least some momentary comfort while your tendon heals. Applying ice to a workout can also help you drop that core temperature back down and can be extremely refreshing (cue ice bath enthusiasts).

Final Thoughts On Working Out With Tendonitis

Tendonitis can be a huge roadblock, and is enough to take many people out the gym for weeks, or months at a time. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. Staying active and working around an injury is exponentially easier than going back to a sedentary lifestyle then trying to get back into the groove of being active. By employing one of several effect ideologies or training methods, you can still stay active while your tendonitis runs its course. Whether you’re doing exercises on your bad tendon until you hit an uncomfortable range of motion, training body parts around your discomfort without training the affected body part directly, or just applying heat before your workout and ice afterwards, you’re at no shortage for ways not to let tendonitis keep you out of the gym. It’s your decision to make on how you deal with your tendonitis, so go make it.

Comments 1

  1. My problem is tendonitis in my left foot/ankle. Standing and walking cab be painful, but I have to do it. So now what?

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