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Biceps Tendonitis

Biceps Tendonitis

What is Biceps Tendonitis?

Tendonitis (also spelled tendinitis) is the irritation or inflammation of the tendons (thick fibrous bands of tissues that attach muscles to bones).

Think of a tendon like an elastic band that stretches when you move. Tendons also help absorb some of the shocks from your muscles when you move.

Tendonitis can occur in many parts of the body, but typically happens in areas where there are more significant amounts of movement, like the arms and shoulders.

Biceps tendonitis occurs when the upper biceps tendon (also called the long head of the biceps tendon) that connects the biceps muscle to the bones in the shoulder becomes inflamed or injured, weakening the tendon.

Biceps tendonitis usually occurs along with a rotator cuff tear.

Causes | Symptoms | Treatment | Prevention

What Causes Biceps Tendonitis?

Biceps tendonitis is typically caused by a sudden injury to the upper biceps tendon, such as from lifting something too heavy or a throwing motion like in baseball or tennis.

Risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing biceps tendonitis include:

  • Sports or jobs that involve repeated overhead arm movements
  • Past injuries such as a shoulder dislocation or impingement
  • Weak shoulder muscles
  • Overloading the shoulder joint
  • Trauma, like bumping or hitting your shoulder or upper arm against something
  • Improper technique or training in sports
  • Diabetes
  • Inflammatory diseases like gout and rheumatoid arthritis
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Increasing age

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Biceps Tendonitis?

Depending on the cause of your biceps tendonitis, signs and symptoms may include:

  • Redness, inflammation and swelling
  • Tenderness, pain, or stiffness in the front of the shoulder
  • Pain that gets worse when you move your shoulder, especially overhead motions, or pulling and lifting
  • Pain that gets worse at night, especially if you sleep on the affected shoulder
  • Pain that moves down the upper arm bone
  • Decreased range of motion
  • A grating, crackling or snapping sensation when you move your shoulder
  • A lump along the tendon (due to the tendon thickening, growing larger, and even tearing)

Concerned about symptoms of biceps tendonitis? Book an assessment with a physiotherapist today.

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How is Biceps Tendonitis Treated?

Treatments for biceps tendonitis can include:

  • At-home treatment including:
    • applying ice packs for 10-15 minutes, 3-4 times a day, typically for the first 48 hours or until swelling goes down
    • resting your shoulder and arm
    • avoiding activities that cause pain or put stress on your shoulder and upper arm
    • anti-inflammatory painkillers such as Advil or Aleve to reduce pain and swelling
  • Physiotherapy
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), either prescribed, or over-the-counter, such as ibuprofen or naproxen
  • Corticosteroid injections
  • Surgery

Physiotherapy for Biceps Tendonitis

Physiotherapy is a drug-free and non-surgical treatment that focuses on reducing pain and swelling, regaining strength, increasing joint mobility and function, and preventing recurrence. 

At pt Health, you’ll receive a thorough assessment which addresses the source of your problem.

Depending on your individual needs, physiotherapy for biceps tendonitis can include:

Are you seeking physiotherapy for biceps tendonitis treatment? Book an assessment today.

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Can Biceps Tendonitis Go Away on Its Own?

Yes, if successfully treated at home, biceps tendonitis can get better on its own. However, if it’s not treated correctly, tendonitis can turn into tendonosis. 

Tendonosis (also spelled tendinosis) is a chronic, recurring condition that happens as a result of overuse, repetitive strain, repeated injuries to the same area, or an injury that hasn’t healed properly. 

Without proper treatment or activity modification, tendonosis can degenerate the tendon.

Can You Prevent Biceps Tendonitis?

If you have an increased risk of biceps tendonitis (for example, you play sports, or your job involves repetitive overhead or lifting movements), you may want to consult a physiotherapist for a custom treatment plan to address your unique concerns. 

However, there are steps you can take to prevent or reduce the chance of developing biceps tendonitis, including:

  • Exercising regularly, including stretching exercises such as yoga or tai chi (at least 30 minutes every day)
  • Easing into new exercise routines
  • Warming up before exercise
  • Stretching after exercise
  • Taking regular breaks from repetitive movements
  • Practicing good posture
  • Practicing proper technique in sport

Eating an anti-inflammatory diet (avoiding processed and refined foods and sugar)

Book a Physiotherapist Consult for Biceps Tendonitis Today

Concerned about symptoms of biceps tendonitis? Book an assessment with a physiotherapist today.

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