Biceps tendonitis is an irritation or inflammation to the tendon that attaches the biceps muscle to the shoulder. The biceps tendon aides in the stabilization of the humerus, as well as helps with participation in activities that involve overhead motion. The most common cause of injury is overuse. It may also develop as a result of the normal wear and tear associated with the aging process. Additionally, biceps tendonitis can develop as a result of trauma and other injuries to the shoulder such as rotator cuff tears.
Biceps tendonitis occurs when stress is repeatedly placed on the shoulder, causing inflammation. Over time the irritation and swelling can lead to deterioration of the biceps tendon, increasing the risk of tears and ruptures. This condition is common in sports with repetitive overhead motion, such as tennis and baseball. Pain in the arm when bending the elbow or during overhead movements are the primary symptoms of biceps tendonitis. The pain is typically located in the front and top of the shoulder and may radiate down the biceps muscle. The pain is worse with activities that involve overhead motions and typically subsides with rest. Other symptoms include tenderness in the shoulder, bruising and swelling, and a popping or snapping sensation near the top of the biceps during movement of the upper arm.
Biceps tendonitis is diagnosed through a physical examination. The arm may be put through a series of movements designed to check the range of motion of the arm. The biceps tendon will also be checked for tenderness. Additional tests may be performed to check for injuries to the surrounding areas, including the rotator cuff and the labrum. If treatment is unresponsive, an MRI scan may be ordered. Treatment usually begins with resting the shoulder. Other treatment options include activity modification, ice, anti-inflammatory medications, corticosteroid injections, strength and stretching exercises and physical therapy. Surgery may be required if conservative treatment options fail or if other problems with the shoulder are present.