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Biceps Tendonitis

What is biceps tendonitis?

Biceps tendonitis happens when the biceps muscle’s tendon swells and gets inflamed. It is most often associated with other shoulder conditions, such as impingement, dislocation, or arthritis.

A tendon is a fibrous connective tissue band that connects muscle to bone. Tendonitis may result in pain and stiffness. Additionally, it can restrict mobility. The Bicep tendon attaches the biceps muscle to the shoulder and elbow. The biceps muscle is connected to the shoulder by two tendons. One is the long head, which attaches it to the glenoid or top of the shoulder joint and the other is the short head, which attaches it to the coracoid process located on the front of the shoulder blade.

A man flexing his bicep

Types of biceps tendonitis

The type of biceps tendonitis that a person has is determined by which tendon has been affected:

Distal biceps tendonitis: This condition happens when the tendon connecting the biceps muscle to the elbow becomes inflamed.

Proximal biceps tendonitis: This occurs when the tendon connecting the biceps muscle to the shoulder becomes inflamed.

Typically, an individual would have only one form of tendonitis rather than both at the same time.


Causes and Risk Factors

When the tendons in the biceps get inflamed, it is referred to as bicep tendonitis. This is occasionally caused by microscopic tears.

  • Biceps tendonitis can be caused by a variety of factors, including general wear and tear.
  • Overuse in a repeated motion
  • Ill-adjusted stance while lifting something heavy
  • Impingement of the shoulder

Bicep tendonitis may occur as a result of repetitive strain injury. They will break their biceps tendons if they have poor technique when playing a sport or if they have poor posture while working.

Additional risk factors include the following:

Age: As a result of their years of use, older adults’ tendons experience additional wear and tear.

Activities that include heavy overhead lifting include the following: Whether it’s for work, sports, or fitness, people who carry heavy objects above their heads, such as weightlifters or those that work in occupations that require heavy labour, may put their tendons to additional wear and tear.

Repetitive overhead motions in sports such as swimming or tennis may cause a tendon to wear out faster.

It is critical to warm up thoroughly before engaging in any exercise and take frequent breaks from repeated movements, especially overhead ones.

Additionally, individuals should ensure that they are doing any movement appropriately and avoid placing themselves in danger or harm. For instance, if anyone is new to a sport, they may need to recommend taking some lessons first to ensure proper technique.


Symptoms of biceps tendonitis include the following:

  • pain that worsens as a result of activity
  • inability to move the joint
  • limited movement and muscle weakness
  • Pain that becomes worse with overhead movement, especially a clicking, grating, or snapping sensation with shoulder movement


Evaluation of biceps tendonitis

Numerous examinations, including the following, can be used to evaluate biceps tendonitis by a healthcare professional:

  • Physical examination
  • A doctor will detect biceps tendonitis by reviewing a patient’s medical history and explaining their symptoms.
  • They could ask an individual to demonstrate the affected arm’s mobility limit and compare it to the other arms.

Tests Diagnostic tests for biceps tendonitis include the following:

Magnetic resonance imaging scans: This scan can detect tendon tears and allow doctors to accurately assess the injury.

Radiation X-rays: Although they cannot reveal soft tissues such as tendons, they can help rule out other possible causes of a person’s symptoms.

Treatment of Biceps Tendonitis

Different treatment techniques may be required depending on the seriousness of biceps tendonitis.

Conservative Treatment:

Mild biceps tendonitis can be successfully treated with home remedies.

Rest: Avoid whatever action caused the pain and allow the tendon to recover.

Cold: For 20 minutes four to eight times a day, apply ice packs to the infected region.

Medications available without a prescription: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or naproxen, can help relieve biceps tendonitis-related pain and swelling. This drug can be taken orally or applied topically to the skin in the form of creams or patches.

Treatment with physical therapy: Certain stretches and strengthening exercises can help individuals reclaim their arm and shoulder range of motion and power. It is important to only do stretches and workouts that have been certified by a healthcare provider to avoid aggravating the injury.

Injections of steroids: A doctor can inject steroids directly into the tendon in some cases. Although this can alleviate discomfort and inflammation, occasional cases can induce more tendon fatigue, aggravating the condition.

Until advised otherwise by a healthcare provider, it is important to carefully use the arm as normally as possible after the effects subside to prevent the fatigue from returning.


Surgical alternatives

Generally, tendonitis is reversible with nonsurgical care.

However, if the disease becomes serious or deteriorates to the point that the tendon breaks or ruptures entirely, surgical intervention may be required.

Occasionally, treatment will require inserting an arthroscope, or miniature camera, into the shoulder joint to examine the damage. Additionally, they may remove damaged tissue or mend the ruptured tendon.

The treatment needed can vary depending on whether a patient has distal or proximal biceps tendonitis. Individuals should speak with a surgeon about their choices to ensure they obtain the most suitable treatment given their circumstances.

Mild tendonitis that can be treated at home usually resolves within 1–2 weeks. However, if an individual needs surgery, the treatment period may be extended. Individuals should consult a healthcare provider about their particular case of tendonitis for more precise healing period estimates. If individuals attempt to resume daily exercise too quickly, they risk more damage to the biceps tendons, which can exacerbate the symptoms.



Biceps tendonitis develops as the biceps tendon swells and gets inflamed. Although it can be a normal part of aging, it may be uncomfortable and need care. If an individual with bicep tendonitis does not allow relaxing the arm, the condition may progress to partial or complete tendon tears. This will necessitate surgery. With prompt medical attention, recovery time should be minimal, and the individual’s arm should regain maximum range of motion.





  • UPMC Sports Medicine. (2021). Bicep Tendonitis Pain Symptoms and Treatment | UPMC. [online] Available at: https://www.upmc.com/services/sports-medicine/conditions/bicep-tendonitis [Accessed 25 May 2021].


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