It is not uncommon for chiropractors to have patients with tendinitis come into their offices.
In fact, tendinitis may be one of the most common musculoskeletal issues that DCs will treat, as it is often found in adults—particularly the elderly due to loss of elasticity in the tendons.1
Tendinitis occurs when the tendons, which attach muscle to bone, become irritated and inflamed. It is often referred to as “tennis elbow,” “golfer’s elbow,” “pitcher’s shoulder,” or “swimmer’s shoulder.” Despite the misconception that tendinitis is strictly a sports-related injury, it can happen as a result of any repetitive motion.
Signs and symptoms
Pain from tendinitis is localized and will increase if the affected joint is moved. There may also be a cracking or grating sensation as the joint moves. The area will often be red, swollen, and hot to the touch, and there may be a raised area or lump at the site of the affected tendon and joint, as well.1
Standard recommended treatment
Standard tendinitis treatment usually involves resting and icing the affected area, as well as the use of over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications. In more severe cases, corticosteroid injections into the affected area, physical therapy, or even surgery may be options. Recovery can take anywhere from several weeks to months, depending on the severity of the injury. While these therapies may be effective for the short term, they may not be as beneficial for chronic or long-term tendinitis (generally lasting more than six weeks).2
Low level laser therapy (LLLT), sometimes known as cold laser therapy, has emerged as one of the more effective alternative treatments to surgery for tendinitis. The treatment is believed to work because photons in the laser beam can reduce pain and inflammation by stimulating the cells of the damaged tissue, which then stimulates increased cell division, oxygen, and circulation. This process is thought to speed the tendinitis healing process by as much as 50 percent, as well as reduce the need for surgical intervention.3
What does the research say?
A study published in the February 2010 issue of the journal Photomedicine and Laser Surgery conducted a meta-analysis to combine the results from 25 studies on using LLLT to treat tendinopathy (a subtype of tendinitis). The advantage to meta-analysis studies are that they can provide more strength for evidence by grouping together smaller studies than each study can provide on its own.4
In this case, the meta-analysis found that 12 of the 25 studies showed a positive effect for LLLT in treating tendinopathy, provided that the dosages are administered within current acceptable exposure guidelines. The researchers concluded, “LLLT can potentially be effective in treating tendinopathy when recommended dosages are used. The 12 positive studies provide strong evidence that positive outcomes are associated with the use of current dosage recommendations for the treatment of tendinopathy.”4
The outlook is positive for using low level laser therapy to treat tendinitis, particularly if the condition is chronic or repetitive. Chiropractors would be wise to consider investing in a laser system to treat such conditions, as it will not only speed healing for the patient but allow them to treat a wider variety of conditions, as well.
1 Nordqvist C. “What is tendinitis (tendonitis)? What causes tendinitis?” Medical News Today. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/175596.php. Updated September 2014. Accessed January 2015.
2 Derrer D. “Tendonitis.” WebMD. http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/arthritis-tendinitis. Reviewed February 2014. Accessed January 2015.
3 altMD. “Laser Therapy for Tendinits.” altMD.com. http://www.altmd.com/Articles/Laser-Therapy-for-Tendinitis. Accessed January 2015.
4 Basford JR, Baxter GD, Hurley DA, et al. “Low level laser treatment of tendinopathy: a systematic review with meta-analysis.” Photomed Laser Surg. 2010:28(1);3–16.