Bicep Tendonitis

Bicep Tendonitis

What is Biceps Tendonitis?

Biceps tendonitis is the swelling or inflammation of the biceps tendons that attach the biceps muscle to the shoulder or elbow.

What are the Causes of Bicep Tendonitis?

Biceps tendonitis may be caused by a fall on an outstretched arm, repetitive movements, lifting of heavy objects while at work, weightlifting, long term use of corticosteroid medications and smoking.

Symptoms of Bicep Tendonitis

The most common symptoms of biceps tendonitis:

  • Pain, tenderness and weakness at the front shoulder or elbow
  • Trouble turning the arm palm up or down
  • Redness
  • Restricted range of motion

How is Bicep Tendonitis Diagnosed?

Your doctor diagnoses biceps tendonitis after discussing your symptoms and taking a medical history. A physical exam is performed where your arm may be moved in different positions to see which movements elicit pain or weakness. Imaging studies such as X-rays may be ordered to assess for bone deformities such as bone spurs, which may have caused the tendonitis or an MRI scan to determine if there is tendon rupture.

Treatment Options for Bicep Tendonitis

Non-surgical Treatment for Bicep Tendonitis

Non-surgical treatments include:

  • Rest: A sling is used to rest the shoulder and you are advised to avoid overhead activities and lifting heavy objects until the bicep tendon has healed.
  • Ice: Applying ice packs for 20 minutes at a time, 3 to 4 times a day, helps reduce swelling.
  • Medications: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines help reduce pain and swelling.
  • Physical therapy: Strengthening and flexibility exercises help restore strength and mobility to the shoulder joint.

Surgical Treatment for Bicep Tendon Rupture

Surgery may be necessary for patients whose symptoms are not relieved by conservative measures and for patients who require full restoration of strength, such as athletes.

Your surgeon makes an incision either near your elbow or shoulder, depending on which end of the tendon is torn. The torn end of the tendon is cleaned and the bone is prepared by creating drill holes. Sutures are woven through the holes and the tendon to secure it back to the bone and hold it in place. The incision is then closed and a dressing applied.

Risks and Complications of Bicep Tendon Surgery

As with any surgery, complications can occur related to the anesthesia or the procedure. Most patients suffer no complications following biceps tendon repair; however, complications can occur and may include:

  • Infection
  • Nerve damage
  • Re-rupture of the tendon