If you've heard warnings of overuse injuries while exploring new workouts but aren't sure what that term encompasses, let me introduce you to tendonitis. It's one overuse injury worth keeping on your radar if you're routinely working and working out from home.
"Tendons are a fibrous connective tissue that connects muscles with bone, allowing us to move our joints. Tendonitis is inflammation of the tendon tissue," Maura Blackstone, PT, DPT, CKTP, says.
Working in awkward positions, repetitive movements, excessive overhead reaching or overhead work (especially when weight is involved!), and sports and other forceful activities can all trigger tendonitis, she adds.
According to Blackstone, your shoulders, elbows, wrists, thumbs, knees, and ankles are all at risk of tendonitis — common symptoms include dull aches, pain that worsens with movement, mild swelling, loss of motion, weakness, and decreased function.
She says it's always good to see a doctor if you're uncomfortable. Especially if you're experiencing fever, general illness, pain in multiple areas, severe loss of motion, redness, swelling, heat sensations, or discomfort that limits your ability to function daily.
If these symptoms ring a bell, they could have to do with some bad habits you've created since staying home.
Blackstone notes that an ergonomically incorrect work-from-home station could cause elbow and wrist tendonitis — and that's not the only reason to be cautious while adjusting to your new normal.
"Another risk factor would be a significant change or gap in regular activity. If your gym has closed and you took a few weeks off and then decided to ramp up full force, that could be an invitation for injuries like tendonitis," she adds.
If this information connects some dots as to why you're in pain, Blackstone wants you to know that tendonitis can worsen (and result in further tissue damage!) without proper treatment.
I'll happily repeat myself: check in with a medical professional before self-treating. And while you're chatting, ask your specialist if RICE is right for you.
"RICE is a basic at-home treatment for injuries that stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation," Blackstone says.
But too much rest can be problematic — which is why Blackstone says to modify your activity with gentle, pain-free range-of-motion exercises several times per day.
To decrease pain and inflammation, Blackstone suggests icing the injury for 15-20 minutes at a time every 2-3 hours as needed. An ace bandage or compression sleeve (that's not too snug!) could offer relief as well.
Elevating the injury can help bring down the swelling — especially if your injury involves the ankles or knees. "Prop your leg comfortably whenever you are seated or resting for extended periods," Blackstone says.
And while you're RICE-ing it up, it couldn't hurt to surf the web for a new home desk and some healthier workout options, too.