If you keep lifting with tendonitis your symptoms can increase, decrease or stay the same. This will largely depend on how you modify your lifting once you have symptoms. 

In the rest of this post, we will cover a few different aspects of tendonitis. This includes all types of tendonitis. I have the most experience working with the quadriceps, forearms, bicep tendon, and Achilles tendonitis

Tendonitis is tendonitis and there aren’t any major differences between the different tendons other than how much load they are able to tolerate and how your body responds compared to someone else. 

We’ll cover if lifting is the smart choice for you and how to make sure you don’t make your symptoms worse and what to do if this does happen. 

Let’s jump in!

Table of Contents

    Key Takeaways

    • Lifting weights is a great way to rehabilitate yourself from any type of tendonitis
    • As a general rule, start with lighter weight and slower movement to start with until symptoms start to subside. 
    • It is okay to use heavy weights as long as symptoms do not continue to worsen
    • Tendonitis generally always goes away as it’s not a long-term condition
    • Longer-term conditions may be associated with tendinosis and tendinopathy resulting in chronic pain. 

    Is lifting weights a smart choice if you have tendonitis?

    Lifting weights, particularly if you regularly lift is actually recommended for tendonitis. 

    Tendonitis itself is a temporary condition as -itis means “inflammation.” This inflammation generally doesn’t last longer than 7-14 days and is brought on by an acute event. 

    If symptoms become more longstanding we would classify this as tendinosis or broadly as tendinopathy. 

    Here are my recommendations for lifting with tendonitis or tendinosis. 

    1. Reduce your load or intensity. 
    2. Slow down the speed of your reps
    3. A slight change in your foot placement, hand placement, or how you are doing the exercise that aggravates symptoms.
    4. If none of the above strategies work then I’d recommend changing the exercise altogether for the time being until symptoms have calmed down. 

    If you try all of the above for a few weeks and don’t notice any changes then it’s worth working with a professional. A physical therapist is usually the best person to work with. Just make sure that your physical therapist actually knows how to lift weights. 

    In the event you don’t have any good physical therapists in your area, this can easily be treated virtually, too. 

    I prescribe lifting some sort of weights for all of my clients to help them recover from tendonitis. This could be heavy or light depending on experience level and symptom response. 

    So, contrary to many of the other nonsensical articles on the internet, don’t be afraid of lifting weights, just treat it with respect and progress in a slow and methodical fashion and you will avoid most issues. 

    How to not make symptoms worse when lifting

    forearm with tendons protruding from gripping tight

    The main issue that I see folks make is continuing to lift at the same intensity and volume as prior to the pain onset. 

    If that sounds like you, it would make sense to reduce the intensity and volume by 50% or until the point where the symptoms start to subside. Once your symptoms are consistently below a 5 on the pain scale you are free to start slowly progressing weight again. 

    In terms of how much to increase the weight or number of sets and reps, my rule is 5-10% per week. This may be too slow or fast based on your presentation but it’s a good starting point. 

    If you feel like the progression is too fast you can always slow it down or go back to cutting by 50% and then restarting. 

    This is rehab in a nutshell. It’s not about how fast you can progress, it’s about finding the right intensity and the right volume, at the right time in the recovery process. 

    You can’t hack your way around this no matter how much you want to believe it’s true. 

    How to improve tendonitis symptoms with lifting

    As I shared above, start with a weight that is light enough and done slowly enough that it doesn’t increase your symptoms. Once you have found what level of lifting you’re able to do where it doesn’t increase symptoms to above a 5, you’ve struck gold!

    And by struck gold, I mean that this is the start of your rehab process, nice work.

    How much weight is appropriate to use with tendonitis

    You can use as heavy or as light of weight as you want. The only thing to watch out for is to ensure that you are not making symptoms significantly worse. (usually more than a 2 or 3-point increase on the pain scale). 

    What happens if you don’t rest with tendonitis?

    If you don’t rest with tendonitis nothing bad will happen, necessarily. Now, if you continue to do the same things that have been aggravating it over the course of the past several weeks or months then yes, that is a problem.

    However, these injuries don’t require full rest. In fact, if you completely rest and then try and go back to the same activities you were doing you might actually be worse off because you’ll have lost some of the conditioning you had, prior. 

    Can you keep working with tendonitis?

    You can keep working with tendonitis. But, I would recommend changing any repetitive movements you are doing that might further aggravate the injury. 

    In my professional opinion, if you were injured on the job, one of the worst things you can do for yourself from a health and well-being aspect is to not go back to work (even in a reduced capacity) while you recover. 

    This is a controversial topic, however, I think it’s very important for humans to feel like we are making a contribution and part of the way we do that is through work. 

    Hopefully, you have a good manager or if you’re your own manager, then getting back to work in a limited capacity is a great thing. 

    Is tendonitis a permanent injury?

    No, tendonitis is a temporary injury. In fact since -itis means inflammation, it’s very unlikely that this inflammation is lasting for weeks and months on end. 

    You might be asking this question because it’s been months or years and you still have pain. 

    Now we are in the realm of chronic pain, tendinosis and tendinopathy, not tendonitis. You can still have tendon pain but it’s likely not tendonitis. 

    Does tendonitis ever fully heal?

    Yes, in most cases tendonitis fully heals without the need for extensive intervention. 

    If you are asking this question you likely have had this issue for a while. 

    In my experience, there are certain people who recover much slower than others. Call it luck, genetics, nature, or nurture… but it’s true. 

    If you’re one of the unlucky people who recovers slower you are going to have to give it time and make sure to stay as active as you can within the parameters that we’ve set earlier in this article. 

    How Long Does a Tendonitis Flare Last?

    A tendonitis flare usually lasts two weeks or less, with symptoms slowly decreasing over time. If you’ve had a different experience and you are experiencing worsening symptoms then I would recommend talking with your doctor, physical therapist, or other trusted healthcare providers to help move you in the right direction. 

    If you are interested in a DIY tendonitis rehab program please let me know by sending me an email to [email protected] and I’ll build it.