How to treat an inflamed tendon

Updated April 17, 2017

According to the staff at in the article "Tendinitis and Tenosynovitis," tendinitis is the inflammation of a tendon and tenosynovitis is a type of tendinitis where the tendon sheath (outer covering) is also inflamed. When a person has either condition, her tendons (i.e. elbow, knee, finger, shoulder) usually ache or burn and may also be sensitive to the touch. Treatments can include a combination of rest, immobilisation, ice, heat, medication and exercise.

Stop all physical activity or exercise that involves your inflamed tendon. Wear a joint brace for a few days until the inflammation is under control

Take 2 ibuprofen or naproxen pills every 4-6 hours. Repeat every day until your inflamed tendon is healed.

Put ice in an ice pack or inside a hand towel. Strap or tie the ice pack or hand towel (use a larger towel for tying) around your inflamed joint so that the ice is compressed against your source of pain. Keep the ice on your tendon for 15 to 20 minutes. Repeat every 3 to 4 hours while you are awake. Use the ice until your initial inflammation and swelling have subsided.

Once the swelling and inflammation are under control, use a heating pad for 15 to 20 minutes, several times per day. Repeat this procedure every day until your tendinitis or tenosynovitis is healed.

Once your initial inflammation is under control, perform exercises such as the following: If the joint of your inflamed tendon moves in two directions (i.e. elbow), stretch your joint and tendon in one direction as far as you can and hold that position for 15 to 30 seconds. Next, bend your joint in the other direction as far as possible and hold for 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat 10 times and do three total sets. If the tendon of your joint moves in more than two positions (i.e. wrist), also stretch it to each side and hold for 15 to 30 seconds. Perform three sets of 10 repetitions each way. Always keep your movements in a range of motion (in either direction) that does not increase your pain level.


You need to use ice on your tendon for the first 48 to 72 hours after the onset of any symptoms. Ice causes vasoconstriction (narrowing of blood vessels) which controls inflammation and consequential pain by limiting the flow of blood and lymph fluid to the tendon. Once the initial swelling and inflammation have subsided, heat will promote blood flow (with healing properties such as oxygen and vitamin C) to the affected area. Exercise also increases blood flow to the tendon. Stretching exercises can increase flexibility in a certain tendons and joints. Resistance exercises (with light weights) can add stability to the tendon and joint and take pressure off it. When exercising, it is important to work adjacent muscles as well for increased stability. See Resources 1 through 3 below for examples of exercises for certain tendons.


Never apply ice directly to your skin or you could get frostbitten. Also, do not perform any stretching or resistance exercises until your inflammation and pain have been substantially reduced. Exercising could worsen your inflamed tendon.

Things You'll Need

  • Joint brace
  • Ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) or naproxen (Aleve)
  • Ice
  • Ice pack or hand towel (with larger towel)
  • Heating pad
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