Biceps tendonitis can occur at two locations. At the elbow or at the shoulder. Biceps tendonitis is an injury that causes pain and inflammation to the biceps tendon near the crease of the elbow or in the shoulder. Biceps tendonitis at the elbow is not as common as biceps tendonitis at the shoulder. In the shoulder, this is also referred to as the long head of the biceps tendon. This structure is strong and cord-like and connects the biceps muscle to the bones in the shoulder. People who play a lot of racket sports or who have labour intensive occupations such as digging with a spade are at risk. The chiropractors and physiotherapists at Sydney Spine & Sports Centre (S3C) use the highest standards in treatment for biceps tendinitis at the elbow and shoulder. The following are common names that may be used interchangeably but are slightly different:
- Biceps tendonitis – Acute inflammation to the biceps tendon
- Biceps tendonosis – Degeneration of the biceps tendon – no inflammation
- Biceps tendinopathy – Condition of the biceps – preferred term
Causes of biceps tendonitis
The cause of biceps tendonitis at the elbow or the shoulder are often due to a lifetime of normal activities. During the ageing process our tendons gradually weaken with day-to-day wear and tear. Overuse and repeating the same elbow and shoulder motions can worsen and accelerate this process.
Overuse damage can be caused by occupation and sports that involve repetitive overhead or elbow motions. The result of repetitive overhead motion is often shoulder problem that occur with bicep tendinitis. Other conditions that are caused by overuse are chronic shoulder or elbow instability and osteoarthritis. Previous elbow injuries are a risk factor for biceps tendonitis at the elbow and rotator cuff tears are a risk factor for biceps tendonitis at the shoulder.
Symptoms of biceps tendonitis
Biceps tendonitis symptoms include redness and thickening over the biceps tendon. Pain is often felt on the front and inside of the elbow and discomfort when bending the arm against resistance. In the crease of the elbow, patients also often mention tenderness when touched. In shoulder the biceps tendon can be tender to touch and overhead activities are usually painful.
Treatment of biceps tendonitis
Please remember that a true biceps tendonitis is an acute condition where the biceps tendon has become irritated at the elbow or the shoulder. If problems that last longer, it is more than likely a biceps tendinopathy and this is treated a little differently. For acute biceps tendonitis:
- Apply P.R.I.C.E – protection, rest, ice, compression and elevation.
- Electrotherapy, such as ultrasound or laser treatment performed by a chiropractor or physiotherapist to reduce pain and inflammation and help the healing process.
- Exercises as part of a rehabilitation program under the support and guidance of your chiropractor or physiotherapist to improve tissue healing and reduce pain
- Hands on treatments by a chiropractor and physiotherapists for pain and inflammation reduction.
- Strengthening exercises to improve tendon properties and qualities and reduce the risk of recurrence.
Sydney Spine & Sports Centre (S3C) is a chiropractor and physiotherapy centre of excellence located in Balmain and Dee Why Sydney. We offer comprehensive treatments for elbow and shoulder pain.