Dr. Timothy LeeBurton, a hand surgeon with BJC Medical Group of Illinois, discusses tendonitis.

What is tendonitis?

Tendons are structures that move joints, and tendons usually have a lubricant layer on the outside of them so that they glide smoothly. That lubricant layer is usually like a balloon with no water or air. You don’t even see it, but when a person gets tendonitis, that lubricant layer becomes inflamed like a water balloon, and that can cause a lot of discomfort.

How do you treat tendonitis?

Most people don’t even need to see a physician for tendonitis. They usually self medicate with over-the-counter medications, and they adjust their lifestyle or whatever they’re doing that caused the discomfort. It’s when they’ve tried on their own to get rid of the discomfort that they see their doctor. The first line of treatment is immobilization. Resting the tendon can allow it to become less angry on its own. Over-the-counter medications work for many people, but not most. Oral steroids can work for a short period of time. A lot of people think that steroids is the type of steroids they hear about on TV with athletes or the steroids that someone might take for asthma, which have a multitude side effects, but with the steroids that we’re talking about the side effects are minimal, if any. Steroid options include oral or injections.

How quickly can steroid injections relieve tendonitis pain?

It depends on how long the symptoms have been there, but certainly within two to three weeks they should be able to tell a difference. My goal is to not have people living with pain. Arthritis is something that a person can deal with for a period of time. My goal with tendonitis is to get rid of it once and for all and not have someone crippled by having to use a brace 24/7 or every night.