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Biceps Tendinitis: Symptoms, Causes & Treatments

Biceps Tendinitis: Symptoms, Causes & Treatments

Bicipital tendinitis or biceps tendinitis is a condition characterized by inflammation of the biceps tendon. Biceps tendinitis is painful and can sometimes be disabling. 

Biceps muscle symptoms typically include pain, tenderness, stiffness, swelling, and shoulder weakness in the affected arm. The symptoms usually worsen with repeated use of the arm. 

Table of Contents

A. What does bicep tendinitis feel like?
B. What are the common symptoms of biceps tendinitis?
C. What causes biceps tendinitis?
D. Is rotator cuff tendinitis similar to biceps tendinitis?
E. Biceps Tendinitis Treatment
F. Kinesiology tape for bicep tendonitis
G. Biceps tendinitis prevention
H. Conclusion

Do you think that you have biceps tendonitis? Read further to know more about it. 

Learn the causes for this condition, available treatments, and how to prevent it in the future. Additionally, find out how you can use kinesiology tape to alleviate the discomfort caused by this injury. 

What does bicep tendinitis feel like?

The pain from biceps tendonitis is often felt when the arm is raised overhead or lifted above waist level. You might also feel a sharp pain when lifting or lowering objects that weigh more than ten pounds. 

girl lifting weights biceps tendinitis

Biceps tendonitis often affects the front of the shoulder and may also cause swelling and redness in that area and a warm, burning sensation around the joint.

What are the common symptoms of biceps tendinitis?

The symptoms of Bicep tendonitis may include:

  • Tenderness along the front of the upper arm near the shoulder joint
  • Stiffness when trying to lift something above head level
  • Visible swelling on the top middle part of the upper arm

What causes biceps tendinitis?

Biceps tendonitis is commonly caused by overusing this joint or by doing a repetitive motion without giving your muscles time to relax between contractions. 

Some of the movements that cause this involve overhead motion for extended periods. It can also be brought about by an excessive force being applied to the bicep tendons causing it to become inflamed. 

weightlifting biceps tendinitis

Some of the sports that make you prone to this injury include: 

  • Weightlifting 
  • Baseball or softball (throwing a ball overhead, repeatedly pitching) 
  • Swimming 
  • Tennis
  • Volleyball 

Furthermore, bicep tendon pain can be exacerbated by sleeping on your affected arm. So, you might want to adjust how you sleep if you're trying to recover from this injury. 

Is rotator cuff tendinitis similar to biceps tendinitis?

Rotator cuff tendinitis is  another namefor biceps tendinitis. They both refer to the pain and swelling on the cuff tendons and the bursa (fluid sack that helps cushion the joint).

girl stretching before exercising

Biceps Tendinitis Treatment

If you feel like you have biceps tendonitis, we highly recommend that you visit your doctor or therapist to get a professional assessment of your condition. 

The tests that the physician may conduct to confirm your condition are an X-ray, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), and ultrasound. 

Some of the available treatments for biceps tendinitis may include: 

  • Icing the area. Using ice on the tender area will reduce swelling and decrease muscle spasms. You can use a cold pack by putting it in a bag and leaving it against your skin for 10 to 15 minutes (or up to 30 minutes if you want). 

You must be careful when applying ice because some people may have very sensitive skin. Applying pressure or an ice pack directly over the biceps tendon without supporting it first with a towel, washcloth, or another object can lead to more pain and discomfort than before you used the ice pack.

If you do not have access to an ice pack, apply cold water from a faucet or soak your arm in a basin filled with cold water for about five minutes every hour as needed. 

  • Rest. Biceps tendinitis occurs when you use your arm in a way that irritates the tendon. Reducing or modifying the activities that cause biceps tendinitis can help speed the healing process and prevent further injury. 
setting aside time to rest
    • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Biceps tendinitis can also be treated with over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others), naproxen sodium (Aleve), or acetaminophen (Tylenol).
    These drugs help decrease swelling, inflammation, and associated pain. However, these medicines do not treat Biceps Tendinitis directly; they decrease your perception of pain.
    •  Steroid injections. Once Biceps Tendinitis has been diagnosed by a doctor, s/he will most likely prescribe a corticosteroid injection to be given directly into the area of inflammation. Corticosteroids reduce pain and swelling very quickly after injection.
    • Kinesiology tape. While kinesiology tape is not a treatment per se, it can help alleviate some of the discomfort that you feel when you have biceps tendonitis. Your therapist may also include taping for the overall treatment plan. 
    kinesiology taping for biceps tendinitis
      • Surgery. If the condition does not improve with non-surgical treatments, your doctor may offer surgery. Arthroscopic surgery is usually performed for biceps tendinitis. It involves a small camera (arthroscope) being inserted into the shoulder joint. The surgeon will then use the images projected from the camera to perform the surgery.
      • Physical therapy. Biceps tendinitis can be treated with physical therapy, also known as rehabilitation. As you progress through your rehab program, the therapist will recommend certain exercises that you do at home to continue to strengthen and stretch the muscles of the Biceps Tendinitis. 

      physical therapy to treat biceps tendinitis

      Kinesiology tape for bicep tendonitis

      Kinesiology taping has continued to gain popularity over the years in aiding therapists and doctors in alleviating discomfort caused by a variety of injuries. Given its elastic nature and its ability to give support without limiting the range of motion have made it ideal for athletes and active folks who love to keep it moving. 

      If you’re new to  kinesiology tape, you can read everything you need to know about it and its  numerous benefits in our  blog. We also suggest reading up on the  different kinesiology taping tension guidelines before proceeding - it’ll be handy for this section! 

      1. Measure the length of the tape you would like to use. 
      2. Create a Y-strip with your tape. Round your edges to avoid premature peeling. 
      3. Anchor your tape and apply 0% tension. Give the middle of the tape 15-25% tension while applying 0% tension on the ends.
      4. Rub in the tape to activate the adhesive. 

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      Biceps tendinitis prevention

      As people age, they become more prone to tendonitis due to the natural wear and tear of the tendons. So, one of the best ways to prevent biceps tendinitis is to make sure that you don’t push your body too hard, especially when you’re over 30. 

      Here are some other things that you can do to avoid biceps tendonitis: 

      • Take breaks. If you want to avoid biceps tendinitis, don't lift weights or perform an activity that uses the biceps for two or more hours without stopping. If you feel pain in your bicep, take a break and drink some water. Additionally, make sure that you give your muscles time to repair after an intense workout by setting up a day or two for recovery. 

      girl taking a break to prevent biceps tendinitis

      • Make sure to warm up and stretch. Biceps tendinitis can happen if you don't properly warm-up before activity or stretch out the muscles after activity. Make sure to cover all of your bases: warm-up and stretch before you lift weights or do another exercise, and remember to stretch out your arms after.
      • Maintain proper form. Biceps tendinitis may occur when you use poor form during an activity. For example, it may happen if you don't use proper posture or use your back instead of your arms when lifting weights.
      • Slowly increase your workout intensity. Biceps tendinitis can also happen if you suddenly increase the intensity of your workout. It’s most common in athletes who try to improve their performance by lifting leading up to a competition. Make sure that you gradually increase your workout intensity for several weeks leading into a competition if you’re training for one.

      slowly increase workout intensity to prevent biceps tendinitis

      • Don’t smoke. Studies have found that nicotine-use increases the risk of tendon damage and rupture. 
      • Don’t ignore pain. If you do experience any pain or discomfort in your bicep, stop the activity and have it checked by a doctor. 
      • Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight makes you prone to tendon damage since it puts strain on your tendons. Scientists also found evidence that being overweight promotes inflammation that may lead to tendon problems. 

      keep a healthy weight

      If you already have bicipital tendonitis, avoid bicep tendon activities and strengthen your Biceps Brachii with biceps tendonitis exercises. Bicipital tendinitis prevention involves having a strong Biceps Brachii.

      Conclusion

      You can try kinesiology taping to alleviate the pain and discomfort associated with biceps tendinitis. If it doesn’t work, or if you want a different method of treatment, there are other options available. As always, talk to your doctor before making any decisions about what course of action is best for you.

      If you’re interested in learning more about other common injuries like  AC joint sprain or  shoulder impingement, you can head over to the  blog

      Thanks for reading!                                            

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