Symptoms of tendonitis 

The main symptoms of tendonitis are pain and inflammation in the affected tendon.

If you have tendonitis you may have:

  • pain that is worse when you move the affected area
  • a sensation that the tendon is grating or crackling as it moves (this may be felt on examination)
  • swelling, sometimes with heat or redness
  • weakness in the affected area
  • a lump that develops along the tendon

If your symptoms persist, the tendon may rupture (split) and a gap may be felt in the line of the tendon. Movement in that area will also become more difficult.

Types of tendonitis and tenosynovitis

Tendonitis can occur in many different parts of the body. If the sheath surrounding the tendon becomes inflamed rather than the tendon itself, the condition is known as tenosynovitis.

Supraspinatus tendonitis (shoulder)

Supraspinatus tendonitis is inflammation of the tendon at the top of the shoulder joint. It causes pain when moving your arm, particularly if you lift it up high.

The pain may also occur when you are lying on your shoulder at night. Supraspinatus tendonitis is often part of a condition called rotator cuff syndrome, where other tendons in the same area are also affected.

Read more about other common shoulder disorders.

Calcific tendonitis (shoulder)

In calcific tendonitis, calcium phosphate crystals form in the supraspinatus tendon in your shoulder. It can cause long-term mild pain, plus short episodes of more severe pain. The pain can spread down your arm or up into your neck.

Calcific tendonitis may also cause your shoulder to become weak or stiff. It is a similar condition to supraspinatus tendonitis, but the calcium crystals will be visible on an X-ray.

Biceps tendonitis (upper arm)

Biceps tendonitis affects the tendon that attaches the muscle on the front of your upper arm (bicep) to your shoulder. This can cause pain in your shoulder and upper arm, which may be worse if you lift or reach overhead. 

Tennis elbow and golfer's elbow

Tennis elbow is pain in the side of the elbow. Golfer's elbow is pain in the middle of the elbow.

These conditions cause pain when you move your elbow, particularly when you lift it against a force. The pain is usually around the elbow joint, but may spread down your forearm towards the wrist. You may have less grip strength as a result of the pain and your elbow may feel stiff.

De Quervain's tenosynovitis (thumb)

De Quervain's tenosynovitis is not strictly a type of tenosynovitis, as it is not associated with inflammation.

It is thickening of the sheath surrounding the thumb tendons, which run between the wrist and the thumb. There is obvious swelling and moving your thumb will be very painful.

Achilles tendonitis (heel)

Achilles tendonitis is inflammation of the tendon between the heel and the calf muscle.

It is often the result of a sports injury, but may also be caused by wearing poorly fitting shoes that make you walk awkwardly. It can also be associated with rheumatoid arthritis.

Page last reviewed: 10/04/2013

Next review due: 10/04/2015