Biceps Tendinitis


What is biceps tendonitis?

Even though tendons are tough, if you overuse them they can become sore and painful. This is caused by inflammation and micro tears in the tendon and it is called tendonitis. Your biceps tendons attach the biceps muscle to bones in the shoulder and in the elbow. Two tendons attach the biceps to the shoulder: the "long head" tendon that attaches the muscle to the top of the shoulder's socket and the "short head" that attaches it to the front of the shoulder. The long head of the biceps tendon is a known pain generator of the shoulder, tendonitis of this tendon can be a major cause of shoulder pain.


What are the causes of biceps tendonitis?

Tendonitis can occur because of repetitive motion, injury, or because of a sudden, heavy load to the tendon. Biceps tendonitis is rarely seen in isolation, therefore, it commonly coexists with other pathologies of the shoulder. It is common in overhead sports, swimmers, gymnasts and some contact sports. Occupations that involve overhead shoulder work or heavy lifting are also at risk.


What are the symptoms?

When the long head of the biceps tendon becomes inflamed and irritated, shoulder pain and weakness can be the result. Other common conditions include:

  • Deep ache in the front and/or top of the shoulder
  • Shoulder pain when raising the arm or extending the arm in front of the body
  • Throbbing or pain radiating toward the elbow when touched
  • Weakness when twisting the arm or bending the elbow
  • Snapping or catching sensation when moving the shoulder joint


How is biceps tendonitis treated?

Tendonitis of the biceps tendon is typically treated non-surgically with ice, rest, and anti-inflammatory medications. Dr. Potts may recommend a corticosteroid injection in more severe cases where patients are experiencing intense shoulder pain for an extended duration.

When non-surgical treatments for biceps tendinitis do not alleviate the patient’s pain or symptoms, Dr. Potts may recommend surgery with a procedure known as a biceps tenodesis, where the tendon is reattached to the upper arm bone.