Physical Therapy for Biceps Tendonitis – Information, Exercises, and More
Whether you participate in a sport like tennis, swimming, or baseball that requires repetitive motions or your body is simply reacting to its normal everyday movements, biceps tendonitis is a condition you may develop that can cause pain on the front of the shoulder and overall weakening of the bicep muscle.
If you’re experiencing this type of discomfort, relief may be on the horizon.
We’ll discuss biceps tendonitis and its causes and symptoms, and we’ll show how physical therapy can help.
- What Is Biceps Tendonitis?
- What Causes Biceps Tendonitis?
- Biceps Tendonitis Symptoms
- Biceps Tendonitis Treatment
- Biceps Tendonitis Physical Therapy – Will PT Help?
- Best Physical Therapy Exercises for Biceps TendonitisBest Biceps Tendonitis Exercises
- How In Motion O.C. Can Help With Biceps Tendonitis
What Is Biceps Tendonitis?
The bicep attaches to the shoulder blade bone with two tendons called the short head tendon and the long head tendon. The distal bicep tendon attaches the bicep muscle to the elbow. Though these tendons are strong and allow us to move our arms, they can be injured due to overuse. Biceps tendonitis occurs when any of these tendons becomes inflamed due to microtears in the fibers.
What Causes Biceps Tendonitis?
Bicep tendonitis can occur at both insertion points — the shoulder or elbow — and is generally caused by overuse or sudden injury to the tendon.
Biceps tendonitis can be caused by the repetitive movements involved in sports like:
Additionally, regular daily movements involved in work or other normal activities can also cause biceps tendonitis. This is especially true for those activities that involve regular overhead motion. And because our tendons tend to weaken slowly as we age with everyday wear and tear, performing repeated movements may put us at more risk of biceps tendonitis injuries as we get older.
Though you can experience biceps tendonitis in both the shoulder and elbow, it’s unusual to experience them in both locations simultaneously.
Biceps Tendonitis Symptoms
Common symptoms of biceps tendonitis include:
- Pain in the front of the shoulder that gets worse with overhead movement or lifting
- Pain in the shoulder or elbow when moving the upper part of the arm
- Achiness or tenderness that moves down the upper arm bone
- A snapping sound or feeling in the shoulder
Pain from biceps tendonitis can also be felt when moving the wrist from your palm facing upward to facing downward.
Biceps Tendonitis Treatment
Before deciding on the appropriate treatment for biceps tendonitis, a healthcare professional will perform a thorough examination. During the exam, a doctor will check for:
- Range of motion in the shoulder
- Bicep function
Additional tests, like an X-ray or MRI, may be necessary, especially if the doctor expects a tear in the tendon.
Though this condition is painful, when caught early, non-surgical methods can bring relief and resolution. For more serious injuries or tears, surgical treatment may be necessary. The doctor will also prescribe the appropriate treatment based on the tendon (or tendons) injured.
Non-surgical treatments can be extremely effective, especially when started early. Chronic pain from long-lasting injuries may take more time, but with consistency and discipline, those injuries can also be effectively treated with non-surgical methods.
Non-surgical treatment of biceps tendonitis may include:
- Rest – Trying to continue to work or exercise through the pain usually backfires.
- Ice – Ice packs used for 20 minutes at a time can help reduce swelling.
- NSAIDS – Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen, naproxen, or aspirin help to reduce pain and swelling.
- Steroid injections – Cortisone injections may be necessary to reduce inflammation and relieve pain, giving the tendon the chance to heal.
- Physical therapy – Exercises to stretch and strengthen the muscles and tendons can help recover movement and flexibility.
Surgical treatment for biceps tendonitis may be reserved for severe cases that don’t respond to non-surgical treatment or if a tendon tear has occurred. Biceps tendonitis surgery is usually performed arthroscopically.
Bicep tendonitis surgeries fall into the following categories:
- Repair – The tendon may be repaired where it attaches to the shoulder.
- Biceps tenodesis – This surgery involves removing the injured part of the bicep tendon and reattaching it to the humerus bone.
- Tenotomy – When the damaged tendon cannot be reattached, a tenotomy releases the biceps tendon from its attachment.
As with any surgery, there are risks and possible complications. Some complications with biceps tendonitis surgery may include infection, stiffness, and bleeding.
Additionally, after surgery, rehab may be necessary. A bicep tendonitis rehab protocol may involve restricted movement, wearing a sling, and physical therapy exercises.
Sometimes the best treatment is prevention, and because many biceps tendonitis injuries occur from overuse, patients can take precautions to keep the injury from happening or recurring.
To prevent a biceps tendonitis injury:
- Take activities slowly and build up as you’re able.
- Limit repetitions of certain activities.
- Reduce the amount of force you use in exercise and other activities.
- Stop when the activity is painful.
- Practice good posture.
- Correct poor sports technique.
Biceps Tendonitis Physical Therapy – Will PT Help?
Yes! PT for biceps tendonitis is highly recommended.
Physical therapy can help relieve biceps tendonitis pain and increase movement by using stretching and strengthening exercises to:
- Increase range of motion
- Resolve pain
- Strengthen the rotator cuff
- Stabilize the scapula
- Increase upper body endurance
Best Physical Therapy Exercises for Biceps Tendonitis
Bicep Curls and Stretches
For bicep curls, hold a light weight (or no weight at all) at your side. Bend your elbow so the palm is facing up and lift the weight up toward your shoulder. Hold briefly and return your hand to your side. Do two sets of eight to twelve repetitions.
For bicep stretches, stand facing the wall about six inches away. Raise your injured arm out to the side and place the thumb against the wall with your palm down. Keeping your arm straight, rotate your body in the opposite direction until you feel a gentle stretch. Hold for 10-15 seconds and repeat three times.
Resisted Shoulder Internal and External Rotation
To perform the shoulder internal rotation, stand next to a door with the injured arm closest to the door. Tie a knot in a resistance band and close the knot in the door at waist level. Hold the band in the hand of your injured arm and bend the elbow at a 90-degree angle. Keeping the elbow close to your side, rotate your forearm across the body and then back to the starting position. Try to do two sets of 8-12 repetitions.
To perform the shoulder external rotation, stand in a similar way as the preceding exercise, but this time, stand so that your injured arm is farther from the door. Keep the band in the door and hold the end with the injured arm and the elbow at 90 degrees. Begin by resting your injured arm against your stomach. Keep the elbow at your side and rotate the arm out and away from your waist then return the arm to the starting place. Aim for two sets of 15.
Elbow Flexion and Extension
With the injured arm palm up, bend the elbow and place the palm on the shoulder of the same side. Straighten the elbow on your side as far as possible. Do two sets of 15.
How In Motion O.C. Can Help With Biceps Tendonitis
At In Motion O.C., we strive to give hope and encouragement to others on their rehabilitation or healing journey.
With our #1 ranked physical therapy services, we’ve helped dozens of people recover from biceps tendonitis injuries and regain strength and motion, so they can get back to their active lives.
Our testimonials speak for themselves, and you can find our number 1 ranking on Google and Yelp.
To find relief from your biceps tendonitis pain, request a free screening today.
The content in this blog should not be used in place of direct medical advice/treatment and is solely for informational purposes.