Biceps Tendonitis

March 11, 2014


What Is Bicep Tendonitis?

Like any form of tendinitis, biceps tendinitis refers to the inflammation of a tendon, in this case, the one that anchors the top of the biceps muscle in the upper arm. The biceps can become inflamed at any point from the shoulder to the elbow, but most often manifests in the shoulder. Biceps tendinitis in the shoulder often accompanies other problems in the shoulder joint such as arthritis or cartilage tears.

What Are The Major Symptoms of Biceps Tendonitis?

Patients often complain of pain and tenderness in the shoulder especially in the front of the joint. There may also be some muscle weakness and stiffness present. The pain may radiate down the arm and all the way to the hand, which can sometimes make it difficult to differentiate from rotator cuff injuries and labral tears.  The pain may be worse at night and is often exacerbated by lifting and overhead work. One key hint that a patient may be suffering from biceps tendinitis is that the pain will be pronounced when making a throwing motion, and especially severe during the follow-through.

What Causes Biceps Tendinitis?

Physically active people who are involved in sports often complain of biceps tendinitis, especially sports that involve a lot of arm movement or throwing motions. Sports that have both throwing and contact elements, like football, are a common cause of this type of inflammation. Swimming, gymnastics, other contact sports, and martial arts are also very common causes.

What Are The Treatment Options?

Refraining from overhead activity, application of ice, and anti-inflammatory medications are the first steps to take in treating biceps tendinitis. After the pain and inflammation have resolved, physical therapy focusing on therapeutic exercises, similar to those offered by SimpleTherapy, will usually be helpful to return the biceps and shoulder joint to their normal mechanics.

First, stretching exercises for the shoulder will be prescribed, to return flexibility; then, strengthening exercises for the arm and shoulder will help return the muscles to full strength. Throwing exercises should only be introduced after pain has resolved, reconditioning exercises have been well-tolerated and full range of motion achieved. In rare cases, if the improvement is not seen after a prolonged course of the above conservative treatment, surgery may be indicated.

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