Inflammation of the biceps tendon or tendon tear frequently sidelines professional baseball players, football quarter backs, those playing tennis, swimmers, and golfers who all use repetitive overhead motion as part of their sport or profession. These sports injuries create create pain in the bicep muscle and can develop into biceps tendonitis which can develop either in the shoulder and the elbow, depending upon the nature of the repetitive motion. This typically is most evident as shoulder pain and can lead to a biceps tear. But, what exactly is bicep tendonitis? More importantly, how do we help to relieve the pain and swelling in the bicep tendon, causing bicep tendonitis?
Biceps Tendinitis, What is it?
Biceps tendonitis is an acute inflammation of the tendons in the upper arm where the tendon attaches the biceps. The heads of the biceps attach to two points in the upper arm to the coracoid process of the scapula and the glenoid fossa of the shoulder blade (where the humeral head attaches); these comprise the bones of the shoulder. Where these tendons attach is the area of most wear and tear with respect to repetitive shoulder motions and most susceptible to a biceps tendon injury. In the distal portion of the upper arm (the area furthest from the shoulder) the attachment is to the radius bone of the forearm.
Tendons are strong, much stronger than muscles, with motion of over use, they along with the surrounding soft tissues can become inflamed and very painful and typically re and swollen. The shoulder girdle reduces in motion . This overuse can lead to mirco-tears and full width tears, develop into rotator cuff tears and restricting the range of motion of the joint, limiting daily activities such as raising the arm.
As the overuse continues and the inflamed tendon worsens, it becomes red, swollen and painful. As the condition progresses, the outer covering of the tendon thickens which can eventually lead to a tear, producing a prominent bulge in the upper arm. This can lead to shoulder instability, irritation of the rotator cuff muscles and decreasing the range of motion of the shoulder joint.
What Gentle Exercises Can Relieve Painful Biceps Tendonitis?
Biceps Curls with Dumbbells
The the starting position with the front of your shoulder facing the wall, grab a pair of dumbbells, a light weight of between 5 to 10 pounds – or lighter, and with the the palm facing each other, do ten (10) repetitions of curls three (3) times. The next set three (3) for ten (10) repetitions should be done with the palm facing upward. If you do not have dumb bells available to you, you can substitute the weight for something as simple as a jar or can.
Shoulder Flexion with Dumbbells
Using the dumbbells or similar weight, start with the arms to your side and lift both arms to the level of your shoulder height and bend the elbow at ninety degrees (90 degrees). This exercise an also be done for three (3) sets with ten (10) repetitions per set.
Shoulder Flexion and Extension Exercises
On the injured side, flex and extend your elbow. Bringing your palm to your shoulder, bend your elbow as much as possible. To finish, straighten both your arm and elbow. This can also be done for three (3) sets with ten (10) reps per set.
Place the injured palm side against the wall or a firm surface. You will now slowly turn your upper body away from the wall. At this point you should feel the stretch of the biceps, chest and shoulder. Hold the stretch for up to thirty (30) seconds and then rest and for fifteen (15) seconds and then repeat three (3) times.
Single Shoulder Flexion
With the injured palm side on the wall in front of you, Slowly raise the fingers tips so they are pointing to the ceiling. At this point you may need to walk closer to the wall. You can also use your finger tips to help your shoulder “walk up the wall”. You can do ten (10) repetitions for three (3) sets. The goal of the exercise is to increase the height of the arm raise.
Treatment for Biceps Tendonitis
There are a multitude of treatments for bicep tendonitis. The best injury prevention plan to prevent biceps tendonitis is rest and avoid activities which initially caused the inflammation. If you are no better after rest, icing the area and doing the exercise program above (shoulder exercises), it is time to make an appointment with Tebby Chiropractic and Sports Medicine Clinic to investigate nonsurgical treatments options and pain management protocols, prior to corticosteroid injections for the treatment of biceps tendinitis.
The best treatment for bicep tendonitis is to rest the tendons and to avoid in the activity that caused inflammation to the area in the first place. If after two weeks of applying ice, resting the area, and doing exercises to relieve biceps tendinitis with no improvement, it is time to see Tebby Chiropractic and Sports Medicine Clinic to explore more effective treatment options.
Make an appointment with Tebby Chiropractic and Sports Medicine Clinic right away if your bicep tendonitis does not improve after 2 weeks of proper care in order to prevent permanent damage to your tendons.
If you have any further questions or would like to schedule an appointment. Call us at 704-541-7111 or request an appointment online today!