What Are the Differences Between Tendonitis and Arthritis?


Pain in or around a joint can raise questions. What if I have arthritis? Could it be something else? Tendonitis and arthritis can be confused because they affect similar areas and both cause pain and swelling. There are several key differences between tendonitis and arthritis that you should know.

Tendonitis in Brief

  • Tendonitis is an injury and inflammation in the tendons. It can happen anywhere in the tendon, but typically it manifests where the muscles and tendons meet. Often, tendonitis will bring heat, pain, stiffness, loss of mobility and inflammation to the affected area. The pain may intensify with use of the affected area, such as tendonitis in the hand being more painful when you open a jar.

Arthritis in Brief

  • Arthritis is a blanket term covering roughly 100 different joint disorders. It is caused by either excessive wear and tear on a joint, an auto-immune disorder, a bacterial infection or an accumulation of uric acid. Arthritis brings pain, stiffness, loss of mobility, redness and inflammation to the affected joint. The pain intensifies if an affected joint is used, such as arthritis of the wrist being more painful when holding an object in the hand.


  • Both these disorders cause pain that is worsened by movement. Both bring inflammation, heat, stiffness and loss of mobility. Both can be brought on by overuse and improper stretching.


  • Tendonitis is not chronic and recovery can take just a few days for a minor injury. Arthritis, or the effects of arthritis, tends to be chronic and lifelong. Finally, tendonitis is an injury, and arthritis is a disease or condition.


  • Arthritis pain typically is localized specifically to a joint, while tendonitis pain tends to be just off the joint and generally covers a larger area. By touching the area where the pain is, you may be able to tell whether the pain is present in a joint, which is one way to determine whether you have tendonitis or arthritis. The best way to tell the difference is to visit your doctor for a thorough examination. That way, you can get a complete plan for recovery from tendonitis, or a treatment plan for dealing with arthritis.


  • A Massage Therapist's Guide To Pathology; Ruth Werner, LMP, NCBTMB; 2005
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