Tips for Selecting Creams for Tendonitis

Tendonitis, which mostly affects the body’s joints and limbs, can be immensely uncomfortable and cause a dull ache. It can also limit your movement, and left untreated, this pain and swelling can become very bothersome. People who are suffering from tendonitis know how much the condition can be a hindrance to their daily activities. It’s because it can limit your flexibility and give you pain even with the slightest of movements. 

If you are suffering from tendonitis, it is very important to visit your doctor to get the right treatment for your condition. However, if you can’t visit a healthcare professional immediately, there are some products that you can use to help ease the pain. One example of a good product that you can use for tendonitis is an anti-inflammatory cream. 

When you visit stores or search online, you will find a lot of anti-inflammatory creams available. However, not all of them are made equal. Some can be good at relieving pain, while some might not work for you. This makes choosing the right product a bit challenging. If you are looking for some anti-inflammatory creams for instant relief from the pain you are feeling due to tendonitis, we are here to help you. In this post, we are giving you some of the best tips for selecting creams for tendonitis.

What is Tendonitis?

woman with tendonitis on the hand

Tendonitis is also sometimes called tendinitis. It pertains to tendon damage due to stress on the tendon. It can be caused by sudden movement or repetitive overuse of the tendon. This type of injury immediately swells, which causes pain and limits the function of the tendon. Healing this condition can be a long and complex process, which often completes around six weeks, but may also take several months. 

Our tendons are tough, fibrous tissues that connect muscle to the bone. When we lift, run, or do other activities, our tendons bear most of the stress when muscles pull on the bone. Aside from that, they also store energy like a spring. They are able to compress and then release energy fast from the compression. This means that jumping, running, and accelerating are all made possible by the tendons releasing compressed energy.[1] 

Types of Tendonitis

Tendonitis can occur in any tendon in the body. However, those that are subject to overuse and heavy loads are the most common site of tendon injuries. Below are the various types of tendonitis:

  • Achilles Tendonitis: This attaches the calf muscle to the heel bone.
  • Patellar Tendonitis / Jumper’s Knee: The patellar tendon connects the kneecap to the calf bone. It is used when the thigh muscle straightens the leg.
  • Medial Epicondylitis / Golfer’s Elbow: The tendon on the inside of the elbow is overused, which leads to the development of this condition.
  • Lateral Epicondylitis / Tennis Elbow: The lateral epicondyle is the tendon that connects the forearm muscle to the upper arm bone. 
  • Supraspinatus Tendonitis / Swimmer’s Shoulder: This occurs with the overuse of the rotator cuff tendon.
  • De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis / Gamer’s Thumb: This condition pertains to the overuse of the wrist, which can injure the two tendons located at the base of the thumb.

Doctors can also distinguish between tendonitis, which is a sudden injury to and swelling of the tendon, and tendinosis, which is a degeneration of the tendon fibers that results from overuse. There are times when doctors also refer to tendonitis as chronic tendonitis. Sudden injury of tendons usually occurs when the fibers have already degenerated from previous injuries or repetitive overuse.[1] 

Tendonitis Diagnosis

The diagnosis of tendonitis is usually made with a medical history and a physical examination. When you visit an orthopedist or doctor, they will try to determine the nature of the injury. They may ask you when the pain started, the activities that caused it, if you have been injured before, and more. 

As we’ve mentioned earlier, tendonitis is commonly caused by overusing a tendon, which can happen when you often lift a heavy load, run, or move suddenly. In addition to that, throwing, playing tennis, swimming, or using a computer mouse can also damage a tendon slowly until it begins to hurt and swell. There are also some medications that may cause damage to the tendons, such as fluoroquinolone antibiotics.[1] 

People who are more at risk for tendonitis are athletes and those who engage in activities that involve repetitive motions. Since tendons stiffen as people grow older, age also increases the risk of tendonitis, along with conditions like high cholesterol, rheumatoid arthritis, and diabetes. 

During a physical exam, a doctor will look for swelling and test your range of motion. If the doctor suspects another condition that may be causing the pain, he may ask for an X-ray to make sure. An MRI can also be done for repetitive tendon injuries or tendinosis to assess the full damage to the tendon.[1] 

Treatment Options

There are different treatment options for tendonitis. These may include rest, specific exercises, medications, therapy, or surgery. When it comes to medications, some of the most commonly used are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and corticosteroids.[1] The best treatment options and medications for tendonitis will depend on your condition and what your doctor will advise you. But if you are looking for immediate relief while you are still unable to visit a doctor, you can opt to use over-the-counter anti-inflammatory creams, which we will further discuss below. 

How Do Anti-Inflammatory Creams Work?

applying cream on elbow

Topical anti-inflammatory creams are frequently used to relieve the pain brought on by tendonitis. They are also used to treat muscle problems, sprains, and strains. Most anti-inflammatory creams can be bought over the counter, but there are also some that are prescribed.[2] 

When anti-inflammatory medicines are taken by mouth, they work by blocking the effect of enzymes referred to as cyclo-oxygenase enzymes. These enzymes aid in producing chemicals called prostaglandins, which are involved in the production of pain and inflammation in areas of damage or injury. Therefore, when prostaglandin is reduced, the pain and inflammation also decrease. 

Topical anti-inflammatory creams work the same way. However, instead of having an effect on the whole body, creams only work on the specific parts where you apply them. When creams are applied to the skin, they are absorbed into it and move deeper into parts of the body where there is inflammation. When rubbed into the skin over the sore area, they minimize swelling that affects joints and muscles and relieve pain. Using over-the-counter anti-inflammatory creams is a safer option compared to taking anti-inflammatory medicines orally, as you are much less likely to experience side effects.[2] 

For more information, check out our Guide to Selecting Pain Relief Creams.

If you need more recommendations when it comes to anti-inflammatory creams, you may read our Guide to Choosing the Right Anti-Inflammatory Creams.

Things to Consider When Buying Anti-Inflammatory Creams

person getting some pain relief cream from a tube

If you are suffering from tendonitis and need some kind of cream to relieve it, it is always smart to do some research first. This way, you’ll be able to learn about all the options available and choose the best one that will cater to your needs. It is crucial to do your research and know what you are looking for because doing so can help you avoid wasting time on creams that won’t significantly reduce your discomfort.

Additionally, there are a lot of anti-inflammatory creams on the market that could harm your skin. Therefore, to get the best results, it is safe to learn about the components of the product, how it is used, and the potential side effects it may come with. Below are some of the important things you need to consider when buying anti-inflammatory creams for tendonitis:

Active Ingredients

It is always important to look at the active components when searching for anti-inflammatory creams to treat your tendonitis. These ingredients will essentially serve as a reference for the cream’s strength and identify the primary element that will relieve the pain. Some people can have allergies to certain ingredients. Examining the ingredients can therefore aid in preventing accidents and potential allergic responses.

Anti-inflammatory medications contain a number of ingredients that are effective at alleviating inflammation and pain brought on by a variety of conditions, including tendonitis. Topical anesthetics are typically the most effective of these substances. For instance, lidocaine contributes to a surface-level numbing effect that is quite effective.

A number of organic substances, including methanol, eucalyptus oil, cinnamon oil, camphor, etc., also aid in pain relief. On contact, these substances provide a hot and cold sensation. These sensations, along with the anti-inflammatory characteristics, aid in pain relief and serve as distractions from the discomfort.

Side Effects

Since topical drugs are given topically rather than internally, they may appear to be safe. But if you’re not careful, they can also have negative side effects, including specific allergic reactions. All medications, whether oral or topically applied, contain specific ingredients and substances that aid in treating the condition they are intended to treat. These substances could, however, be too abrasive for some skin types. Topical creams could make your skin become irritated if you have sensitive skin.

Similarly, anti-inflammatory creams can irritate the skin, resulting in more pain and discomfort if you have a disease or sensitivity. This is particularly valid for those who have eczema or other similar skin disorders. The easiest approach to prevent such a problem from happening is to perform a patch test. In a patch test, you apply the cream to a tiny area of your skin and watch to see how you respond. It is safe to anticipate that your skin will react in the same way if you apply it to any other location if it begins to flare up or get itchy. Use the cream on the affected area if everything is well and you don’t notice any redness or irritation.


There are many various anti-inflammatory medicines available, including oral drugs, lotions, rollers, and even patches. Therefore, each of them has a very different application process. The application procedure is the main advantage of anti-inflammatory creams. The majority of these creams are applied through a massage technique, allowing the chemicals and active components to penetrate the skin much more effectively.

Therefore, if you are thinking about using one of the many different anti-inflammatory creams, make sure you are aware of how each of these products should be used since this can greatly affect how effectively the cream will treat your issue.

The majority of creams and gels that reduce inflammation are rubbed in. This technique aids in spreading the cream and gel over the joints. As a result, it improves blood flow while also helping to control localized discomfort.

For more recommendations, check out our 5 Best Anti-Inflammatory Creams Over The Counter.

When to See a Doctor

examining a patient with tendonitis

While over-the-counter anti-inflammatory creams may work for tendonitis, it is still important to seek medical treatment, especially if the pain has been affecting your everyday activities. When your tendons are inflamed or injured, there are various levels of severity. When your tendonitis is severe, OTC treatments may not be enough.[3]

When creams are not working for you, a physical examination may reveal various things. These may include decreased range of motion secondary to pain, thickening of the tendon, bony spurs, pain with direct palpitation, and more. Therefore, if the pain is not going away or improving within a few weeks of using OTC anti-inflammatory or pain relief creams, do not hesitate to reach out to your doctor for proper and more effective treatments.[3]  


Tendonitis causes pain, tenderness, and sometimes slight swelling that can interfere with your daily activities. If not treated right away, it can start to affect your day-to-day activities. But using pain relief and anti-inflammatory creams for tendonitis might help in alleviating the pain until your tendonitis heals. However, if you notice no improvements after using OTC creams for an extended period, maybe it’s time to seek help from a medical professional. We hope this post helped you learn more about selecting creams for tendonitis. 


[1] Rehman, A. (2021, November 17). Tendonitis Treatments & Medications. Single Care. Retrieved December 15, 2022, from

[2] Rull, D. G. (2018, March 26). Topical anti-inflammatory painkillers: Uses and side effects. Retrieved December 15, 2022, from

[3] Tigar, L. (2022, February 26). Livestrong. LIVESTRONG.COM. Retrieved December 15, 2022, from