How Antibiotic Tendonitis Can Ruin a Life and How to Treat It…

By Chris Centeno, MD /

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A strep throat and antibiotics are a rite of passage in our modern world. In addition, many times we doctors prescribe antibiotics because the patient has an expectation of getting them for a cold or other infection. For Sonya, it was a combination of an antibiotic (Levaquin) and a steroid (prednisone) for a dental infection that triggered a tsunami of side effects, leading to antibiotic tendonitis, a back fusion, more side effects, and, finally, disabling chronic pain.

Spoiler alert: Sonya’s story has a happy ending and very happy new beginning, but it’s her journey through lost hope and the strength (and a conversation with her physical therapist) she found to push past it that allowed her to reclaim her active lifestyle. Be sure, especially, to watch her moving testimonial above.

Sonya Suffers Debilitating Effects After Taking Levaquin and Prednisone

For Sonya, a music teacher for special-needs kids and speech pathologist, playing music and dancing with her preschool students is a huge part of who she is. She is also a very active person in her personal life, enjoying biking swimming, yoga, dancing with her husband, and other activities. But in 2010, at the age of 43, after taking Levaquin and prednisone for a dental infection, Sonya began experiencing side effects immediately, and her active lifestyle deteriorated in an instant. What happened? Antibiotic tendonitis and tendon damage.

Antibiotic Tendonitis

Antibiotics come in many different families based on their chemical structure. One of these is called the fluoroquinolones or “quinolones” for short. These drugs include ciprofloxacin (Cipro), levofloxacin (Levaquin), norfloxacin, and many others at this link. These drugs can be prescribed for colds, bronchitis, urinary tract and eye infections, and many other issues. The quinolones have been associated with tendon damage, called antibiotic tendonitis, in many studies. One mechanism that’s been proposed is that these drugs increase the levels of tendon breakdown chemicals known as MMPs.

Sonya’s Antibiotic Caused Pain

Not only did Sonya experience intense shoulder, neck, and leg pain, but she could barely walk and had difficulty even breathing. Participating in the activities above that defined her active lifestyle were an impossibility. An MRI of Sonya’s back revealed two cervical discs that had herniated so far into her spine, her spine wasn’t even visible on the MRI.

A C5–C7 Back Fusion Worsens Sonya’s Situation

In December of 2010, Sonya underwent surgery to fuse her cervical spine from the C5 to the C7 level. Unfortunately, instead of solving her problems, the spinal fusion just made things worse, adding on the inability to move her neck, increasing migraines, and continued excruciating pain. In her own words, “It [the surgery] destroyed my life!” She hadn’t just given up hope of ever reclaiming her active lifestyle—at this point, her disabilities were so advanced, she felt certain death was imminent and began preparing for her family’s future without her.

Sonya’s experience with her back fusion isn’t isolated. We’ve covered the many problems—such as stopping movement, damaging adjacent structures, and causing more pain—associated with back fusions many times over the years.

A Conversation with Her Physical Therapist Gives Sonya New Hope

In 2012, Sonya began her road to recovery after a conversation with her physical therapists led her to Regenexx and a regenerative-medicine solution using injections of her own platelets. The first thing Sonya noticed after beginning her injections was that she was able to sleep again. Now, again in Sonya’s own words, “I can dance with the kids again. I can dance with my husband again. I can ride my bike again. I can swim again. I can do yoga again. Words can’t even express how wonderful it is to not have to go through surgeries and to not have to take my pain medications or any kind of medications and be able to do the things I love again.”

The upshot? How many times have you seen those drug commercials on TV and the huge list of side effects that go along with them and thought, Gosh, the side effects sound worse than the problem itself? Whether it’s a drug or a surgery, as Sonya’s story reflects, the side effects can be brutal. But as Sonya’s story also reflects, there are nonsurgical regenerative-medicine options out there.

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18 thoughts on “How Antibiotic Tendonitis Can Ruin a Life and How to Treat It…

  1. Tara

    I’m so happy for her. My question is what tests can be done to find outnifnthis is the root of your problems. I have suffered for years with degeneration but inhave taken levoquin 3 times in a row due to what was thought to be a sunus infection but was not. I have been more sick niw than i have ever been in with much worse pain everywhere.

    1. Regenexx Team Post author

      Tara,
      Sometimes we don’t know, but avoiding quinalone antibiotics would likely be a good idea! Sonya felt the negative effects of the Levaquin/prednisone combination (which increases the chances of this problem) immediately, none of which she had ever experienced before. The onset of quinolone-induced tendonitis is usually abrupt, with sharp pain occurring spontaneously fairly soon after beginning the antibiotic, but it can also occur much later.

  2. S. ivan

    I took Levaquin for at least 3 weeks both in and out of the hospital for pneumonia. I started feeling pain in my shoulder shortly after this. My pulmonary Dr told me I had tendinitis from the antibiotics. I thought it would go away but it hasn’t. If anything it’s gotten worse. Would these injections help get rid of the pain?

    1. Regenexx Team Post author

      S. ivan,

      Very unfortunately, this is not uncommon. If you have a recent MRI, we can take a look through the Candidacy process to see if we can help. To do that, please submit the Candidate form to the right of the Blog.

  3. Joan

    My husband has tendon rupture now in both legs long after cipro use. Who does he see for treatment. He has been off cipro for over 3 months.

    1. Regenexx Team

      Hi Joan,
      The place to start would be to submit the candidate form here: http://www.regenexx.com so we can see what the situation is and how we can best help.

  4. Michael

    I’ve been taking doxytab antibiotics since Dec 4 2018 for a herpes eye infection. My opthalmologist has prescribed it for a year. My concern is that since about Jan 3 of last month I’m experiencing more joint pain along various parts of my body than before. Though I have been experiencing aches for a few years now from what a appears like years of a lot exercise and having suffered from IBS and insomnia,. Things did improve for me when I consulted with a functional medicine clinic in Dec 2017 and then followed a supplement and keto diet program for several months. My aches did improve,but I don’t know what happened to me in early Jan of last month. I’m waiting for my opthalmologist to call me back this week. I’m 49yrs and have been athletic all my life . I take 100mg of doxytab every night and every morning I take a pro-biotic from Dr. Perlmutter ‘s Garden of Life brand. My probiotic contains 50 billion CFU. I’m wondering if it’s the doxytab or other factors. I’d like to get off the doxytab fast so I could better determine if it’s the meds. I’m also waiting for my blood work results from my family physician which should be ready soon.

    1. Regenexx Team

      Hi Michael,
      Depending on one’s genetic make-up, different people can have different reactions to prescription drugs. Because it’s an MMP inhibitor, doxycycline has been used in the treatment of corneal and other wounds, but that does not mean that it can’t cause significant problems in some people. We’d need to examine you to see what’s going on with your joints. We don’t have a Regenexx Provider in Canada yet. Please let us know if travel is an option.

  5. lori

    I took antibiotic and sterouds for pneumonia. I have ra also I’ experienced terrible pain plus water on my knee right after could I be positioned as well ?

    1. Regenexx Team

      Hi Lori,
      If the antibiotic was a Quinololone antibiotic, it’s possible that the issues are related as tendon or ligament damage can cause effusion and pain. An MRI and a thorough exam is needed. Here are the locations that can do that type of exam: https://regenexx.com/clinics/list/

  6. pamela

    can antibiotic tendonitis cause mental disorders?

    1. Regenexx Team

      Hi Pamela,
      The fluoroquinolone antibiotics that cause antibiotic tendonitis have also been associated neurological and mental status change side effects in some patients.

  7. Laura

    I was on and off Cipro for years for recurrent bladder/Uti infections. All of a sudden my knee gave out and it’s a mess. I didn’t do anything to cause this much damage. 38 years old and waiting for a knee replacement. I didn’t know it could be from cipro, started another dose as of yesterday and my knee is burning and I’m in pain despite having a gel injection recently to ward off a replacement.

    1. Regenexx Team

      Hi Laura,
      Have you spoken to your Doctor’s about an alternative to quinolones? Please see: https://secure.medicalletter.org/w1496c

  8. Shridevi deenamsetty

    My daughter was admitted at a Hospital due to Gastro-enteritis, she was given salines along with Ofloxacin and Ornidazole and was discharged the subsequent day. Post this event she had a lot of weakness in the body. From 29th onwards she developed swelling and pain in the wrists and thumb and gradually increased and also affected the soles of both the legs, the condition has become severe that she is unable to use her hands for any activity and unable to walk.

    We have consulted some Orthopedicians and Rheumatologists, who have prescribed her Etoricoxib and advised her to go for icing, Currently she is under physiotherapy, but the outcome is not as expected.
    We have gone through your website and some of the videos where this particular Fluoroquinolone induced tendinopathy are treated with Stem cell therapy.

    Kindly advise us how we can take your help in resolving this tendonitis.

    1. Regenexx Team

      Hi Shridevi,
      We will contact you.

  9. Paula Infanti

    When I left the VA they sent me home on 4 oral antibiotics , one being Cipro. Within a week I had such bad tendonitis..I was unable to use my arms or turn my head. I had migraines. I was so dizzy and could feel my heart pounding. I stopped them all and almost the next day the pain started to go away. I had the same problem with Levoquin last summer.

  10. Pam

    I had brain surgery to repair unruptured aneurysms. Shortly afterward I developed severe pain in my left upper arm. I tried everything to reduce it and eventually only constant ice packs would reduce the pain. I was sure that I had been yanked by that arm getting onto or off the operating table but of course the neurosurgeon denied any such action. I went to an orthopedic surgeon who tried the shot of lidocaine and steroid in my shoulder with no results. An MRI showed a small tear in the labrum and I had arthoscopic surgery. He did not repair the labrum tear because he thought the stitiches would impinge on the shoulder joint but he did remove quite a few blood clots along my biceps tendon. Nothing was mentioned about the cause but a friend who is a Pharm.D told me about the quinolones which are often given routinely after surgery causing the tendon tears. Very disappointing that no one would put 2 and 2 together and be aware of this.

Chris Centeno, MD

Regenexx Founder

Chris Centeno, MD is a specialist in regenerative medicine and the new field of Interventional Orthopedics. Centeno pioneered orthopedic stem cell procedures in 2005 and is responsible for a large amount of the published research on stem cell use for orthopedic applications.
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