The alarm clock screeches and you reach out to shut off the noise. But as you stretch, your arm sends out a jolt of pain that really opens your eyes. So you overdid it in the weight room the day before - no big deal. In fact, there is something satisfying about a little next-day soreness - the dull ache that says no one is going to kick sand in your face any more. But what if it is three days later and you still feel like a bird with a broken wing? Chances are good you have developed tendinitis.

It is a common problem, especially for men who are trying to build muscle. It also effects those who carry a briefcase, swing a racket, work with a hammer or a paintbrush, or spend their time doing any type of resistance or repetitive activity. Overuse of a joint, either through repeated motion or by loading it with too much weight can cause a slight tearing and inflammation of the tendons. A dull ache sets in as the tendon tries to half itself, leaving your arms sore and weak, and unless you alter your activity, the tearing and healing process continues until the joint becomes a point of chronic pain. If you know how to recognise and treat it, tendinitis is an affliction that can often be cured quickly and avoided easily.

The first task is learning the difference between the ache that tells you are building the strength and the one that tells you are destroying it. Delayed - onset muscle soreness - the ordinary stiffness you get the day after a workout - will be felt right in the middle of the muscle and will disappear in one to three days. Tendinitis is usually located at the bone - tendon junction, in the crook of the elbow or at the wrist or shoulder and the pain can linger much longer. If it is an injury to the tendons, don't neglect it. The faster you treat the condition, the faster you will recover your strength and flexibility. First, treat tendinitis as you would any inflammation. Ice up your sore spots and fight pain and swelling with
aspirin or ibupfofen. Then, after a few days, rest, get yourself to the gym. That's right - exercise.

Tendinitis actually requires less lay-off time than most other sports
injuries. In fact, not exercising may be one of the worst things you can do for your aching bones, according to University of Louisville strength coach Doug Seminick.

If you follow a weight - lifting regime, continue your programme but use light weights or elastic exercise bands to slowly boost the strength of the muscle and tendon. Trying to lift heavy weights will just aggravate the injury and make you even more sore. If you don't lift weights regularly, look for exercises to strengthen the muscles that support the sore joint (e.g. biceps curls and triceps extensions to counteract a sore elbow) Go slow and if you feel pain, lower the resistance even more.

Use stretching exercises to loosen up muscles before you work out, to help avoid aggravating the injury.

To prevent recurrence, pay attention to your form. Generally, narrow your grip when doing flies, bar curls, bench presses, overhead presses, pull- downs and wrist curls - a wide grip can shift stress away from your target muscles and onto your joints, leading to problems like shoulder impingement, a precursor of tendinitis. Keep your hands in line with shoulders.

Be aware of pain during the lowering phase of a repetition, where most cases of tendinitis start. This indicates your form is off.

Go easy on the repetitions. More than 15 to 20 at a time can put you at risk of an overuse injury.

A final point is that some habits that cause your first bout of tendinitis will ensure repeat occurrences, and as the inflammation and healing cycle continues without letup, your tendon may eventually lose the ability to make repairs. This is know as the degenerative phase and it can result in pain that won't go away. Take the pain and problem seriously and work on preventing it in the long term. To do so means changing bad habits, whether
learning to lift a loaded garbage can more carefully or learning to pick up a dumbbell that is 5 pounds lighter. Realise too that self treatment has its limits. If the problem persists see a doctor or physiotherapist. When not properly treated, tendinitis can degenerate into a chronic pain that may require surgery.


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