What is Biceps Tendinitis?
Tendinitis of the biceps is inflammation of the biceps tendon. It’s a direct result of overuse, which can cause tiny tears within the tendon.
Pain is usually felt in the front of the shoulder and sometimes with compression. This condition can also happen with a sudden loading onto the shoulder, or when you try to lift something that’s too heavy.
Note, this condition is sometimes confused with rotator cuff tears, which also cause pain and instability in the shoulder.
Patients diagnosed with BT may have pain in the front of the shoulder, which worsens with overhead activity lifting. They may also have persistent aching in the shoulder and experience a snapping sensation around the shoulder girdle.
Biceps tendinitis is usually caused by overuse. People who perform jobs with frequent overhead activity, like painters, are more likely to develop symptoms. In addition, people who play certain sports such as tennis or baseball are also at higher risk.
Treatment and Prevention
Treatment begins proper diagnosis. After other conditions have been ruled, your doctor may recommend different types of treatments and therapies. Rest, along with ice and heat therapy are usually the first course of action. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication may also help reduce symptoms.
If symptoms persist, even with rest and pain relievers, you may be a candidate for cortisone injections. In some cases, steroid injections can do more harm than good, so your treating physician will proceed with caution. These injections are typically given over a series of weeks to maximize effect.
Physical therapy is another way to reduce the pain and restore full motion. After a period of rest, a physical therapist can teach proper stretching and strengthening exercises to ward off recurrences of pain.
In severe cases of biceps tendinitis that don’t respond to conservative therapies, surgery may be recommended. A biceps tenodesis or tenotomy removes the damaged part of the tendon and then reattaches the biceps back to the bone.
Once cleared for physical activity, it’s important to take things slow. Gradually build up over time, without overusing the affected limb. Trying to do too much too soon may result in re-injury.
While most cases of tendinitis do heal on their own, be mindful of the symptoms and the duration. Symptoms that resolve only to return with use, or pain that never seems to go away completely warrant further investigation.
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