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What is Biceps Tendinitis?

What is Biceps Tendinitis?

06Feb

The bicep tendon connects the biceps muscle to bones in the shoulder and the elbow. Biceps tendinitis is inflammation of the upper biceps tendon. The inflammation occurs around the long head of the biceps tendon, where the biceps muscle connects to the shoulder bone. Biceps tendinitis generally refers to the shoulder, as although it can occur at the elbow, it rarely does.

Symptoms of Biceps Tendinitis

The most common symptom is pain and weakness in the front of the shoulder, which becomes more painful with overhead lifting. There tends to be a decreased range of motion of the shoulder joint and an occasional snapping sound can heard in the shoulder. In addition, pain can sometimes be felt at times running down the arm i.e. the biceps muscle. In the early stages of biceps tendonitis, the tendon becomes red and swollen. As it develops, the tendon sheath can thicken, and on occasion the tendon can tear. Biceps tendinitis rarely occurs on its own, normally being accompanied with other shoulder problems such as damage to the rotator cuff, arthritis at the shoulder cuff, or tears in the glenoid labrum.

Causes of Biceps Tendinitis

In most cases, damage to the biceps tendon is caused by degeneration of the tendon. As we age our muscles weaken and so eventually everyday wear and tear takes its toll on the tendon. This degeneration can be made worse by overuse of the shoulder, due to certain jobs or sports activities. Many athletes who perform continuous overhead movement such as swimmers, golfers and tennis players experience bicep tendonitis throughout their careers.

Treatment for Biceps Tendinitis

Although biceps tendonitis can be very painful, a few simple early treatment methods can help the injury heal:

  • Avoid any heavy lifting or flexing of both the shoulder and the elbow.
  • Apply an ice pack to the skin (not directly) for 20 minutes, several times throughout the day, to reduce swelling.
  • Take over the counter anti-inflammatory drugs such as Ibuprofen to reduce both pain and swelling.
  • In more severe cases of biceps tendonitis, steroid injections such as cortisone may be recommended by a doctor to relieve pain and reduce inflammation of the tendon.
  • Once the pain subsides, physical therapy can also be used to help the shoulder recover. A physiotherapist will create a plan to include muscle strengthening, joint mobility, postural retraining, and ergonomic intervention.
  • If the condition does not improve with these methods, or if the tendon is torn, a doctor may recommend biceps tenodesis surgery, which will aim to remove the damaged section of the tendon and reattach the remaining tendon to the humerus. Post-surgery you will be referred to a physiotherapist to start a shoulder rehabilitation programme.

If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms and suspect it may be biceps tendinitis causing the pain, do not hesitate to get in contact with us here at Ballsbridge Physiotherapy Clinic, to address your concerns. To book an appointment with us, either call us on 01-6606582, or alternatively book online here.

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