Natural Therapies for Tendinitis

Joint disorders, Muscles | March 1, 2017 | Author: Naturopath


Natural Therapies for Tendinitis

Tendons are fibrous tissue that anchor our muscles to bone. They're tough, flexible and come in all sizes – the tendons of your hands are delicate tiny bands, whereas your quadriceps tendons are thick rope-like cords that attach to your thigh muscles.

Tendinitis is an inflammation of this fibrous tissue, caused by overuse (repeating a particular movement too often) or overload (lifting weight that is too heavy, or is increased too quickly). These activities cause micro-tears, irritation and inflammation of the tissue, resulting in pain and tenderness close to the joint that the tendon attaches to.                               

Tendinitis can be caused by infection, and it can be a side effect of certain antibiotics (particularly ciprofloxacin or levofloxacin), but these causes are rare and physical strain is the most common culprit.

How can I tell if I have tendinitis?

There are plenty of natural therapies that can help reduce the severity of tendinitis, but it's important to confirm that your symptoms are caused by inflamed tendons before you begin treatment. Tendinitis usually occurs in joints of the shoulders, elbows and knees, and often the wrists and heels. However, the character of the pain and its severity can differ between locations, making tendinitis notoriously difficult to self-diagnose. The pain of tendinitis is made worse during and after activity, and the condition can last for months, or even years. It can present as a moderate ache with joint stiffness, to extreme burning that surrounds the entire joint and tendon with enlarged visible knots.

To figure out whether your pain and stiffness could be caused by tendinitis or a different type of injury, first identify the location of your symptoms, then define the character of the pain and check if you perform activities that put strain on those tendons. Use this list:


Rotator Cuff Tendinitis commonly affects the tendon that attaches the supraspinatus muscle to the upper arm. Injury is usually due to occupational or sports overuse – swimmers, tennis players, cricketers and labourers are at high risk. It usually presents as a dull ache that can't be identified to one location, and can radiate to the upper arm and chest.


Any activity involving throwing can cause tendinitis of the elbow – professional baseball players get it, and so do dog owners who throw the ball for their pooches a little too enthusiastically.

Tennis Elbow Appropriately named, tennis elbow affects the tendon of the muscle used (and overused) in racket sports – the lateral epicondyle. It's also susceptible to overuse in activity that involves wrist-twisting like using screw drivers and opening jars. Inflammation of this tendon causes pain to the outer elbow that may radiate down the forearm and wrist.           

Golfer's Elbow Pain on the inside of the elbow is caused by inflammation of the medial epicondyle tendon. This is more common in labourers than golfers, but can also effect anyone throwing a large ball, such as basket ballers.


De Quervain's Disease The tendon that is responsible for the movement of the thumb away from the fingers can become inflamed from overuse but it can also occur during pregnancy, or for no known reason at all.

Repetitive strain is the most common cause though – wringing out laundry, knitting, lifting heavy saucepans, and even weight lifting can contribute to de Quervain's tendinitis.

The pain presents at the bottom of the thumb and side of the wrist, and is worse when the wrist is twisted. There can also be swelling or a bump on the thumb-side of the wrist, and numbness on the back of the thumb and index finger. Without treatment, pain can radiate down the forearm and into the thumb.


Jumper's Knee Tendinitis of the knee usually presents below the knee, but can also cause pain above the patella (kneecap). Jumper's knee feels like a strong ache on the front and side of the knee, and it may take weeks to months for symptoms to present after initial injury or strain.

Achilles Tendinitis The achilles tendon is large and rope-like, and attaches the calf to the heel bone. Achilles tendinitis is a common injury in people who run, and particularly in sports with short bursts of sprinting (e.g. soccer), or repetitive jumping (e.g. HIIT workouts).

Poorly fitted shoes or incorrect running form can also cause micro-tears to this tendon.

The pain onset is usually sudden, moderate to severe, and occurs at the back of the heel, about 2 – 4” above the heel.

Natural Treatments for Tendinitis

Before you begin treating tendinitis, it's important to see your healthcare provider to confirm the diagnosis.

Nutritional Support for Tendinitis

Anti-Inflammatory Diet

Pack your diet full of foods that will reduce inflammation through the body and promote fast healing. Fresh fruit and vegetables should make up the biggest portion of each meal, alongside lean organic meats or plant-based protein like legumes or tofu. Focus on berries and green leafy vegetables, and avoiding nasties like alcohol and coffee while you're recuperating.

Omega-3 Supplements

Fish oil or algae-derived omega-3 supplements will promote the body's natural healing process, and reduce inflammation in the tendon. While there is a lack of research on omega-3 in tendinitis, plenty of evidence shows that supplementation is effective in treating similar structural inflammatory conditions [1].

Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM)

MSM adds flexibility and permeability to cell membranes, which allows fluids to flow in and out of tendon cells freely. This may reduce swelling, promote healing and reduce pain. The “S” in MSM stands for “sulfur” – a nutrient that tendons need to work properly.

Herbal Remedies for Tendinitis

White willow bark is a natural analgesic that contains a compound called “salicin” which is metabolised in the body to have the same effect as aspirin. While to date no studies have been done on the effectiveness of willow bark in treating tendinitis, it has been shown to reduce pain associated with other inflammatory conditions such as osteoarthritis [2] and lower back pain [3]. CAUTION: Those with an aspirin allergy or sensitivity to salicylates should not use willow bark.

Turmeric is a bright orange spice that is getting a lot of press coverage for its potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. A recent study suggested that the active component in turmeric, curcumin, may be specifically beneficial for people who suffer from tendinitis. By reducing the inflammation within tendon cells, curcumin may reduce pain and improve healing times [4].


Other Remedies for Tendinitis

Arnica Monata is a well-known go-to for sprains, bruises and tendonitis. It is said to be particularly beneficial when the injury has occurred from sudden, or blunt-force – e.g. it would be most useful for achilles tendinitis, but less-so for tennis elbow.

Rhus Toxicodendron is best for the types of tendonitis caused by overuse or overload injury, that have a sensation of burning or bruising – e.g. tennis elbow, golfer's elbow, and possibly de Quervain's tendinitis.

Topical Treatments for Tendinitis


Cryotherapy – aka “cold therapy” - has been used since Hippocrates' time, who wrote about the application of ice and snow to relieve pain. These days, we often use a bag of frozen peas to reduce pain and swelling, but there are more sophisticated (and more effective) methods of cryotherapy. The reason it works so well is that cold reduces nerve activity and tissue inflammation, and promotes cell regeneration.

Cryotherapy centres are popping up across the world, offering a convenient and safe way of exposing the body to extremely cold temperatures (down to -150C) for short periods of time. Cryotherapy machines are also available for home use.

If you are simply applying an ice pack at home, be sure to wrap it in a towel – applying ice directly can damage the skin, and the tissue underneath. Diabetics may need to speak to their healthcare provider before practicing cryotherapy to avoid tissue damage.

Essential Oils

Applying essential oils to the skin can promote blood flow to the area and reduce pain. Use 3 drops of peppermint, ginger, black pepper, cypress, rosemary or frankincense oils (or a blend) to approximately a teaspoon of olive, almond or coconut oil, and apply to the painful area 3 – 5 times a day [5].


[1] Lewis, J. S. & Sandford, F. M. (2009) Rotator Cuff Tendinopathy: Is There a Role for Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids and Antioxidants? Journal of Hand Therapy, 22:1, p. 49 – 56.

[2] Schmid, B., Lüdtke, R., Selbmann, H.K., et al. (2001) Efficacy and tolerability of a standardized willow bark extract in patients with osteoarthritis: randomized placebo-controlled, double blind clinical trial. Phytother Res., 15:4, 344 – 350.

[3] Gagnier, J. J.,  et al. (2016) Herbal Medicine for Low Back Pain: A Cochrane Review. Spine (Phila Pa 1976), 41:2, 116-33.

[4] C. Buhrmann,  et al. (2011) Curcumin Modulates Nuclear Factor B (NF- B)-mediated Inflammation in Human Tenocytes in Vitro: ROLE OF THE PHOSPHATIDYLINOSITOL 3-KINASE/Akt PATHWAY. Journal of Biological Chemistry.

[5] Blumenthal, M., Goldberg, A. & Brinckmann, J. (eds). (2000) Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs.

backBack to Blog Home