When it comes to nagging injuries and performance impediments, tendonitis is a usual suspect. We all know about tennis elbow, golfer's elbow, and swimmer's shoulder, but it’s not just swimmers and golfers who need to take precautions. Everyone is prone.
So let’s take a look at what it is and what you can do about it.
Where Does It Come From?
Tendonitis tends to show up across a variety of sports and other life activities as it affects a variety of joints in the body. Tendonitis at the site of these joints is usually caused by an excess of physical stress - highly repetitious motions, highly intense training, or anything else that can apply too much stress for too long without proper recovery.
It can come on slowly or quickly; it can be minor; or quite painful and can drastically reduce your ability to do the things you want to do. While some cases resolve quickly and easily, other cases can be very stubborn and difficult to remedy.
What’s Happening Underneath?
Technically, tendonitis is just inflammation in your joints, but it’s not the typical inflammation you get from just a bruise or a sprain. With normal wear and tear, a surplus of bodily fluids coagulate at the site of the injury causing swelling and pain, and then clear as healing occurs. But tendonitis involves significant damage to the fibers of the tendon, like the fraying of a worn rope, and the inflammatory state doesn’t clear as quickly, if it clears at all.
As a result, typical approaches to reducing inflammation won’t be enough. (More on this in a minute.)
Tendonitis Often Goes Either Undiagnosed Or Misdiagnosed
Unfortunately, many people may not realize tendonitis is the problem until it has worsened enough to warrant a visit to a doctor. In both Eastern and Western settings, tendonitis is a highly misdiagnosed malady. When it is misdiagnosed and treatment is handled improperly, the worst case scenarios can let problems accumulate until only surgery can repair the injury. No active athlete ever wants that.
How Traditional Chinese Medicine Views Tendonitis
There are too many areas and types of tendonitis to cover in detail, so we’re going to simplify things by taking a look at how TCM views tendonitis and what herbal remedies may be helpful.
It’s About Blockage, Not Just Swelling
Typical inflammation is a byproduct of swelling due to trauma, often with redness at the site of the injury. In this case, its a sign of Heat, and Heat is battled with cooling herbs. That’s why ice is often recommended in Western settings (but never by us), or something like San Huang San in TCM.
But with tendonitis we usually have a different kind of inflammation - something caused mostly by blockage or Bi Syndrome. There may be a bit of swelling, but resolving the blockage is what’s most important for healing.
It’s common to see tendonitis affecting the Liver channel through its association with the joints and Wind-Damp conditions. In some cases, tendonitis can appear as a textbook Wind case study, moving about the body over time. For example, perhaps you have tennis elbow in one arm. You rest and relax and as it begins to subside you think you're done. But, almost as quickly, it turns into golfer’s elbow on the other arm.
With these concepts of Heat and blockage in mind, we have two possible approaches:
Two Types of Remedies
1. Remedy with Cooling Herbs
The cooling herbs in this case are not strong anti-inflammatory herbs like Huang Qin. Some should be Wind-Damp herbs and Blood invigorators that have a cooling energy, with perhaps a couple of herbs that are geared more strongly towards inflammation; Da Huang comes to mind given its cold energy but strong movement capability.
But, the goal should still be to focus more on penetrating and removing the blockage rather than reducing inflammation. Mu Dan Pi is an example of a cooling herb with some Blood moving properties. Tu Bie Chong would be an example of a much colder and much stronger Blood moving herb you might use for more serious cases.
2. Remedy with strong moving and dispersing substances that are highly energetic
Using strong, warm, moving herbs will introduce significant amounts of fresh blood and nutrients into the area. Although, with this method, you will be introducing some Heat, the focus is more on healing the damaged tendon by supplying it with large amounts of oxygenated blood for healing, Ho Family Dit Da Jow has a very good success rate dealing with shoulder tendonitis, despite its strongly heating nature.
Consider Some Combination of Both
Each person and each situation will be a bit different. You may wish to use a strong warming jow one day and a milder, cooling jow the next. Many people have had good success using a more cooling (but moving) Wu Yang plaster applied one night, followed by a warm plaster such as Hua Tuo plaster the next night.
Internally, it’s important to consider both healing and strengthening. Great Mender or Plum Dragon Dit Da Wan can be a good compliment for the internal healing side, aiding external applications for a more speedy and complete healing process. Gui Zhi is often used in higher measurements to push the actions upward in the body; Bai Zhi tends to push outward; and while Ge Gen is used for shoulder pain due to Exterior Wind, it can be helpful here as well. Flexibility pack or Free and Easy Wanderer can help the tendons stay loose and supple while tonifying mildly, and further reducing pain.
Once the tendonitis has started to subside, it may be a good idea to use some type of tonic to strengthen both the Liver and Kidney. Gecko Tonic is great choice for accomplishing this, as is the continuation of Flex Pack or Free and Easy Wanderer.
Two Tips for Getting Results
Lastly, when dealing with tendonitis, please consider these two important points that will help you achieve your healing goals:
1. Be Patient - Herbs Are Nutrition, Not Pharmaceuticals.
Tendonitis can be stubborn and dit da will not magically cure your tendonitis overnight. You may need to supply it with herbs for quite some time before the tendonitis starts to subside.
But don’t confuse slowness with ineffectiveness. Herbs often work more slowly, because they’re working to help your body rebuild itself from the inside out, instead of just suppressing symptoms.
Just don’t give up. Be patient, and listen to your body, let it try to guide you. Be consistent and eventually, you will see results. To see the results others have experienced with the use of our dit da and other products, browse our testimonials section, and when your persistence pays off, please share your own personal success story with others who are looking for healing by posting a testimonial on our website.
2. Don’t Stop When You Start to See Results!
Don’t give up on your applications of jow, plasters, etc. just because the affected area starts to feel better.
It’s easy to stop worrying about an injury when the pain begins to recede, but an imperceptible tear still remaining in the tendon is easily re-injured and can force you to start the whole process over again.
So keep applying with renewed vigor until you have regained full, pain-free function and range of motion in that joint. When you’re sure that tendonitis is gone, apply for at least another day or 2 just to make sure (and then celebrate by letting us know about your progress and results!)
Wrapping It Up
As I hope you’ve seen, there are may herbal options available to you. The key is to make sure you address both kinds of inflammation, and then to do it consistently and patiently. If you’d like some specific advice, don’t hesitate to ask us!