Biceps tendinitis is known as an inflammation of the long head of the bicep tendon. As tendonitis develops, the tendon sheath (covering) can thicken. The tendon itself often thickens or grows larger. The tendon in these late stages is often dark red in color due to the inflammation. Occasionally, the damage to the tendon can result in a tendon tear, and then deformity of the arm (a “Popeye” bulge in the upper arm). Its most common symptoms are pain in the front of the shoulder and weakness with lifting or overhead activities. These symptoms can often be helped with rest, occasionally medication, and physical therapy.
The most common cause of bicep tendinitis is repetitive movements over a period of time. Such activities can include swimming, tennis, baseball, prolonged overhead movement. Biceps tendinitis usually occurs along with other shoulder problems. In most cases, there is also damage to the rotator cuff tendon. Other problems that often accompany biceps tendinitis include:
- Arthritis of the shoulder joint
- Tears in the glenoid labrum
- Chronic shoulder instability (dislocation)
- Shoulder impingement
- Other diseases that cause inflammation of the shoulder joint lining
Treatment for biceps tendinitis can be very simple such as rest and some therapy. For the more involved or severe cases leading to a tear, surgery may be required. Surgery for biceps tendinitis is usually performed arthroscopically. This allows your doctor to assess the condition of the biceps tendon as well as other structures in the shoulder. During arthroscopy, your surgeon inserts a small camera, called an arthroscope, into your shoulder joint. The camera displays pictures on a television screen, and your surgeon uses these images to guide miniature surgical instruments. Most patients have good results. They typically regain full range of motion and are able to move their arms without pain. People who play very high-demand overhead sports occasionally need to limit these activities after surgery.
After surgery, your doctor will prescribe a physical therapy plan based on the procedures performed. You may wear a sling for a few weeks to protect the tendon repair. You should have immediate use of your hand for daily activities — writing, using a computer, eating, or washing. Your doctor may restrict certain activities to allow the repaired tendon to heal. It is important to follow your doctor’s directions after surgery to avoid damage to your repaired biceps. Your doctor will soon start you on physical therapy. Flexibility exercises will improve range of motion in your shoulder. Exercises to strengthen your shoulder will gradually be added to your rehabilitation plan.
To request an appointment for a free consultation regarding your biceps tendinitis, click here or call directly to one of our three locations during regular business hours:
Cool Springs: 615-224-9810
Spring Hill: 931-489-2022