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Understanding and Managing Shoulder Biceps Tendonitis

Shoulder biceps tendonitis, often referred to as bicipital tendonitis, is a common cause of shoulder pain. This condition occurs when one of the tendons that attaches the biceps muscle to the shoulder becomes inflamed or irritated. While it can be a result of various factors, such as overuse, injury, or aging, understanding its symptoms, causes, and treatment options is important for effective management and recovery.

Symptoms of Shoulder Biceps Tendonitis

The symptoms of shoulder biceps tendonitis typically include pain, tenderness, and swelling in the front of the shoulder. This discomfort may worsen with overhead movements or activities that involve lifting or reaching. Some individuals may also experience weakness or stiffness in the affected shoulder, which makes everyday activities challenging.

Causes of Shoulder Biceps Tendonitis

Several factors can contribute to the development of shoulder biceps tendonitis. Overuse or repetitive movements, especially those involving overhead actions like throwing, lifting, or swimming, can strain the tendon and lead to inflammation. Poor posture, muscle imbalances, and sudden increases in activity levels without proper conditioning can also increase the risk of developing this condition. Additionally, aging and degenerative changes within the tendon can increase likelihood of developing biceps tendonitis. In some cases, no identifiable cause can be isolated.

Getting a Shoulder Biceps Tendonitis Diagnosis

Diagnosing shoulder biceps tendonitis typically involves a comprehensive evaluation by a doctor. This will include a physical examination to assess range of motion, strength, and tenderness about the shoulder. Specific physical exam maneuvers can help isolate the biceps as the source of the pain. Imaging tests such as X-rays, ultrasound, or a MRI may also be recommended in order to visualize any tendon damage and rule out other potential causes of shoulder pain. 

Treatment of Shoulder Biceps Tendonitis

Treatment for shoulder biceps tendonitis aims to reduce pain and inflammation while promoting healing and restoring shoulder function. Initially, conservative approaches such as rest, ice, home exercises, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may be recommended to alleviate symptoms. Physical therapy guided exercises that focus on strengthening the muscles around the shoulder can help correct imbalances and reduce strain on the affected tendon. In some cases, corticosteroid injections may be given to provide relief of pain. If all conservative treatment measures fail to provide persistent relief of symptoms, surgery may be warranted. Surgery involves releasing the biceps tendon in the shoulder joint and then reattaching the tendon to the humerus bone which alleviates the pain of biceps tendonitis. 

Shoulder biceps tendonitis can significantly impact daily activities and quality of life, but most individuals can experience relief of symptoms and regain full shoulder function without surgery. By understanding the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for this condition, individuals can take proactive steps to prevent injury and maintain shoulder health. Seeking guidance from a doctor is essential for an accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment plan tailored to each patients needs.

Peter Adamson, MD
Peter Adamson, MD

Peter Adamson, MD, is an orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine physician with CHI Health Orthopedics.

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