Help for Painful Tendons & Ligaments


Tendons--which attach bone to muscle--and ligaments--which attach bone to bone--are located at joints, such as the knees, elbows, shoulders, ankle and hip. Pain in tendons can be caused by tendinitis, joint strain, arthritis and certain illnesses including fibromyalgia. A person can help alleviate pain through rest, immobilization, ice, heat, medication, supplementation, massage and exercise.

Rest, Ice & Heat

  • If you have tendon or ligament pain, it is best to refrain from any physical activities for a while. This will help prevent further injury to your joint. Depending on the location of your injury, you should consider wearing a brace or splint to immobilize the joint. During the first 48 hours, put ice on directly on the source of your pain at 20-minute intervals throughout the day (every three or four hours). Ice causes vasoconstriction (narrowing of blood vessels), which limits the flow of blood and lymph to the injured joint. Once the initial swelling has subsided, you can use a heating pad to promote blood flow to your tendons and ligaments.


  • Anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve) can help reduce inflammation, swelling and pain in your tendons or ligaments. These Cox-2 inhibitors limit the effects of Cox-2 enzymes and prostaglandins, the body's natural inflammatory response to tendon or ligament irritation. Topical creams such as Bengay might provide some relief. For more extreme pain, your doctor might prescribe oral steroids or give you a cortisone shot. Muscle relaxants can also help alleviate your pain.


  • Certain supplements such as glucosamine and chondroitin are clinically proven to alleviate tendinitis and arthritis. These supplements help add cartilage to the existing base and increase synovial fluid to better help lubricate the body's joints.

Massage & Exercise

  • Two of the best ways to alleviate tendon and ligament pain are exercise and massage. Both promote blood flow to the joint, bringing oxygen and nutrients needed for healing, such as vitamin C. Massage can increase mobility in the joints and eliminate scar tissue, which can affect future pain or injuries.

    Exercises can both stretch and strengthen your adjacent muscles, tendons and ligaments, and that adds stability to the joints. For example, to stretch your knee joint, pull back on your leg and hold it against your buttocks for 10 seconds. Bending the wrist in different directions can help pain in surrounding tendons and ligaments. Pressing your back to the floor can strengthen the lower back and help alleviate lower back pain.

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