Don’t Let Your Big Guns Fall Prey to Bicep Tendonitis 

Know More about the Causes, Treatments and Prevention

Do you regularly engage in sports, such as tennis, baseball, golf or swimming? Are you one of those workout enthusiasts who cannot wrap up a gym session without pumping up your forearms? Whether you are an athlete, a hardcore gym loyalist, or someone who has a physically demanding job, if you perform activities that require repetitive overhead arm movements, you may be at risk of developing bicep tendonitis. Read on to know more about this condition, its causes, treatment and prevention.

All You Should Know about Bicep Tendonitis

What causes this injury? Located at the front of your upper arm, the bicep muscle has two tendons; one connecting to your shoulder, while the other to your elbow. Although tendons are tough tissues, any continuous pulling, lifting, heavy arm movements, or accidental injuries that impact your elbow or shoulder may cause:

  • Inflammation or tear in the tendon: Biceps Tendonitis
  • Non-inflamed degeneration of the tendon: Biceps Tendinosis
  • Inflammation of the tendon sheath: Biceps Tenosynovitis

The umbrella term for all these types of injuries is biceps tendinopathy, but colloquially, they are called bicep tendonitis.

How will you know if you have biceps tendonitis? Bicep tendonitis can occur in either the elbow or the shoulder. It is highly unlikely that you will have his condition in both places at the same time. Since shoulder bicep tendonitis happens due to overuse, trauma or joint instability, it typically occurs along with other shoulder conditions, such as rotator cuff tears, or Superior Labrum Anterior and Posterior (SLAP) lesions. Depending on where the tendon is injured you may feel a sharp or severe pain in your shoulder or elbow. Other symptoms include:

  • Bruised appearance near the elbow
  • Fatigue while using the shoulder or elbow
  • Difficulty in rotating your arm from a ‘palm down’ to a ‘palm up’ position
  • A noticeable difference in the contour of the bicep (Called ‘Popeye muscle’ since the arm muscles bunch up after a tendon tear)

How to treat biceps tendonitis? If you recognize a bicep injury at an early stage, you can try some of these simple home treatments:

  • Apply cold packs or ice to reduce the tendonitis pain or swelling.
  • Try Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAID), such as aspirin or ibuprofen for quick pain relief.
  • Rest your arm and avoid any major flexing, heavy lifting or overhead arm movement.

If these self-help options do not offer any relief, visit your health care provider to get a prescription for stronger pain medication. You can also get a referral for physical therapy, which will help in a sustainable recovery of your torn, ruptured or injured tendon. In rare cases of severe tendonitis, your doctor may also offer corticosteroid injections to arrest the inflammation and speed up the healing of the tendon.

Can you avoid getting tendonitis? While you may not be able to avoid an injury or trauma-triggered tendonitis, there are ways to protect your bicep tendons, especially while working out or playing a sport. 

  • Do proper warm ups before working out 
  • Learn to use all exercise equipment correctly
  • Gradually build your strength training intensity
  • Practice and ease into a new sport, rather than dive into it unprepared 

When it comes to physical therapy treatments for any elbow or shoulder injuries, rely on the professionals at Medical Rehabilitation Centers of Pennsylvania (MRCP). Our multidisciplinary team includes qualified and experienced physical therapists, sports physicians, athletic trainers, and emergency medicine experts. We offer comprehensive root cause diagnostics and customized treatment plans that focus on alleviating your pain and restoring your function and mobility.

To book physical therapy treatments in the Philadelphia area, reach out to an MRCP clinic at your preferred location, or contact us online. 

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