Cold and Heat Treatments for Tendonitis

Updated on January 6th, 2020
ice or heat for tendonitis

What is Tendonitis?

Tendons are tough, fibrous connective tissues, which attach the muscles to the bones. Tendonitis is a condition, which occurs when the tendons rupture, become inflamed or irritated. They can be very painful as tendons are very small and delicate.

A specific cause of it is unknown, but sometimes it happens due to overuse and repetitive use of certain body parts and also when they are overworked. Lisa Cantkier from Pain-Free Living states that more than 70,000 people miss work each year due to pain from tendonitis.

It is most common in the shoulder, wrist, knee, elbow, and heel, but it can anywhere tendons(1) are found in the entire human body. The most common is tendonitis in the shoulder, and people who are greatly at risk of it are swimmers, carpenters, welders, baseball, and tennis players as their work requires repeated shoulder movements.

Did You Know!

Tendons don’t only attach muscles to bones, they can attach to other structures as well, such as the eyeball.

Benefits of Using Cold Compress or Ice

ice for Tendonitis
Image: ShutterStock

When you are injured, it is recommended to use cold or ice compress(2) during the initial three days rather than heat compress as it numbs the pain and also causes blood vessels to narrow, which then reduces swelling. With ice compress, you will immediately feel around 75% improvement in the pain. When you start using it will burn and ache in the beginning and then it will get better.

How to use

Put ice in a towel or get cold compress bands from the pharmacy and apply it on the affected area. Do not apply ice directly on the skin as it can be harmful.


When to use

Ice compress in the initial three days of the injury every four to six hours. Try to keep using it continually for 15-20 minutes at once. However, people with sensory disorders should not use a cold compress as they cannot feel certain sensations, which can sometimes prove to be harmful. People with diabetes should also avoid this therapy.

[ Read: How to Treat Tendonitis Naturally? ]

Benefits of Using a Hot Compress

hot compressTendonitis
Image: ShutterStock

Heat therapy and heat compress treat everything from muscle pain to inflammation. Hence, it is very beneficial to use in tendonitis. After the first three-four days of the injury, you can use heat compress as it improves blood circulation in the aggravated area.

Rise in temperature due to the heat compress can be a little uncomfortable in the beginning, but it turns out to be efficient after regular and right application. It also relaxes and soothes the strained muscles and heals ruptured tissues.

How to use

There are two types of heat compress which can be used, dry heat and moist heat. Dry heating uses things, like heating pads and even hot saunas. Moist heat, on the other hand, includes moist towels and hot baths. Studies reveal that moist heat is more effective as compared to dry heat. In some cases, professional heat therapies can also be done, but it would be beneficial to consult your doctor before.

When to use

Time for heat compress is more than cold compress as there is no risk of damaging the nerves and muscles here due to excessive use. Minor stiffness can be relieved within 20 minutes of heath compress, whereas for severe cases apply heat compress for a minimum of 30 minutes.

Using Ice or Heat for Tendonitis

The tricky part is to know when to use heat compress(3) and when to use a cold compress. But in some cases, it is effective to use hot and cold treatment together. Alternating between hot and cold treatment is known as ‘therapeutic contrasting.’ This is usually done by immersing the affected body part in hot and cold water alternatively.

However, it is only effective when it is done the right way. The idea behind is to changes forces the tissue to adapt, which then regulates the metabolic activity and circulation. Do not indulge in this treatment immediately after the injury when it is still swollen or red. Do this after 3-4 days for approximately 15-20 minutes to see good results. But there are some body parts where it becomes difficult to apply a hot and cold treatment.

Therefore, it is advisable to use an ice compress and hot compress separately in situations like that. Additionally other than immersing the whole body or affected area in the water, one can also wrap heating and cold pads alternatively or just spray the affected area with hot and cold water.

[ Read: Supplements for Tendonitis ]

The smallest tendon is located in the inner ear, attaching to the smallest muscle in the body.

Do Everything Right in Tendonitis


  • Give yourself time for recovery.

Do not rush and give your body appropriate rest and time to heal before going back to training.

  • Ease back on training.

Once you recover from tendonitis and start training, take it slow and increase the pace gradually.

  • Wear warm clothes when exercising in winter or cold areas.

Exercising in extreme cold can damage your nerves. Hence try to wear multiple layers when training in cold conditions.

  • Run-on smooth track if training for athletics.

Uneven tracks can be a reason for tendonitis due to the fear of falling and spraining.

[Read: 10 Essential Oils to Heal Tendonitis]


  • Overload the aggravated area.

Do not put pressure on the affected area as it can further worsen the tendonitis.

  • Stretch the aggravated tendon.

Stretching and overexercising the aggravated tendon can cause further irreversible harm.

  • Wear uncomfortable shoes.

Wear comfortable shoes to help maintain proper posture while walking and running. Do not engage in physical activities, like running, jogging, cycling wear slippers.

  • Do not work through the pain.

If you experience pain, it is highly advisable to stop then and there. Because working through pain can cause further damage and pain.

  • Using old and improper training equipment.

Do not train on old and broken equipment as they demand more energy than required which is very harmful to the body.

  • Do not use steroids.

Steroids often push players or athletes to overwork which greatly increases the risk of tendonitis.


Mentioned below are some things to follow and keep in mind to prevent tendonitis.

  • Lose excess body weight.
  • Make sure to warm up properly before exercise.
  • Maintain good form while walking and exercising.
  • Change your exercise routine from time to time.
  • Use appropriate workplace ergonomics.
  • Improve your technique if you think it is flawed.

[ Read: Exercises to Help with Tendonitis ]


1. Does Tendonitis Hurt All the Time?

It usually depends on the severity of the condition, but it pains the most during movement. It is hence recommended to avoid vigorous movements in this condition.

2. What Vitamins Help Tendonitis?

Vitamins like A, C, and E are beneficial in this condition. Some other nutrients and supplements like calcium, magnesium, bromelain, essential fatty acids also help.

3. Does Tendonitis Go Away?

Yes, it goes away with time. If not, then the doctor can recommend appropriate treatments and therapies to deal with the pain.

4. Does Acupuncture Help in Tendonitis?

Yes. The acupuncturist can further recommend how many sessions it will take to treat the condition.

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