Diagnosis and Treatment of Biceps Tendinitis in Wake County

What is Biceps Tendinitis?

The term biceps tendinitis refers to inflammation of the tendons of the biceps. Tendons are strong, cord-like connective tissues, which connect muscle to bone. This condition most commonly affects the long head of the biceps tendon. Injury or trauma to the arm can lead to the development of tendinitis at the elbow or shoulder level. However, tendinitis at the shoulder level is more common. Biceps tendinitis is often accompanied by rotator cuff injury. Arthritis is also present in several tendinitis cases.

Treatment for biceps tendinitis usually involves nonsurgical methods, like the RICE strategy. However, if symptoms fail to improve, surgical intervention is an option. Avoiding heavy lifting and repetitive motions is essential to speeding up the recovery process. Guidance from one of our board-certified orthopedic surgeons at Raleigh Orthopaedic will also help get you on the path to recovery. 

What Does Biceps Tendinitis Look Like?

Biceps tendon inflammation is due to partial or complete tearing of the tendon. The swollen and torn tendon appears as a prominent projection over the upper part of the biceps. This bulge is known as “Popeye’s bulge.” In some cases, you may also notice visible shoulder discoloration (blackening).

What Causes Biceps Tendinitis?

Microtears in the tendon typically manifest as inflammation. A common cause of biceps tendinitis is degenerative changes, or wear and tear of the tendons as you age. Performing repetitive motions that lead to bicep muscle overuse is another factor that sometimes causes biceps tendonitis. Other possible causes of this condition include: 

  • Sports injuries
  • Shoulder trauma 
  • Shoulder dislocation 
  • Postural issues 
  • Primary impingement syndrome
    • Impingement syndrome of the shoulder is a condition in which the tendons become trapped in the shoulder joint, leading to pain and inflammation.

Biceps Tendinitis Risk Factors

While the primary cause of biceps tendonitis is exerting repetitive strain on the biceps tendons, some other risk factors can also increase your chances of developing biceps tendinitis. These include:

  • Old age – Biceps tendons are prone to weakening as you age
  • Smoking – Nicotine use can weaken or even rupture your biceps tendons
  • Repetitive use of the shoulder, such as during swimming and tennis 
  • Heavy lifting – Lifting weights or objects at work can cause excessive wear and tear on the biceps tendons

Symptoms of Biceps Tendinitis

The long head of the biceps brachii tendon is regarded as an evident pain generator in the shoulder. The most commonly observed symptoms of biceps tendinitis include:

  • Pain that worsens during movement (especially overhead movement)
  • Swelling in the affected area
  • Reduced mobility of the arm/shoulder
  • Snapping sensation when moving the arm
  • Muscle weakness
  • Discomfort on arm rotation

How is Biceps Tendinitis Diagnosed?

The diagnosis of biceps tendinitis is made by physical examination and radiographic imaging. A history of injury/trauma and palpation of the sore biceps could indicate tendon tears. Your physician will likely examine the mobility of the affected arm and order X-rays and MRI scans to reach a diagnosis. Yergason’s test is a specific movement test used to diagnose tendinopathies in the shoulder.

Treatment for Biceps Tendinitis in Wake County

Biceps tendinitis can be treated either surgically or nonsurgically, depending on the severity of the condition and its symptoms.

Nonsurgical Treatment

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The easiest method of relieving shoulder pain is resting and applying something cold to the painful area. You should avoid moving the arm and let it rest for optimal recovery. A few days off from work can speed up healing. Applying cold or ice to the inflamed bicep multiple times each day reduces inflammation and alleviates pain. You can also opt to take NSAIDs or painkiller medications for pain and swelling relief. 

Cold therapy combined with analgesic medications can provide superior results. Compression and elevation of the affected tendon can also help treat the chronic inflammatory condition. Another effective non-interventional treatment modality is physical therapy. A physiotherapy session can aid in improving range of motion while enhancing localized blood flow. Corticosteroid injections can also be administered directly into the tendon, helping lower inflammation and prevent further damage.

Surgical Treatment Options

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Complete rupture of the tendon requires surgical intervention. Biceps tendon surgery is carried out with the help of an arthroscope. An arthroscope is a miniature camera that helps the surgeon visualize the shoulder joint and the tendon.

During surgery, your orthopedic surgeon will be able to access the affected soft tissues through a small incision. They will then be able to focus on repairing the ruptured tendon. Distal biceps tears should be immediately referred to surgery as they can worsen without prompt intervention.

Biceps Tendinitis Recovery Time

In general, cases of mild tendinitis resolve in a couple of weeks. However, if surgery is needed, the healing time will be prolonged. While you may be able to return to your usual working routine within a few weeks, complete recovery can take several months. During this time, you might need to wear a brace to provide support to the tendons. You may also be advised to perform specific exercises, take painkiller medications, go through physical therapy, and modify your lifestyle to prevent putting any excess strain on your arm.

How Can I Prevent Biceps Tendinitis?

Our orthopedic specialists advise that patients follow these steps to prevent biceps tendinitis:

  • Avoid nicotine and smoking
  • Strengthen your bicep muscles with exercises like bicep curls
  • Maintain proper form during sporting activities like swimming
  • Avoid continuous overhead work
  • Warm up and stretch before playing and working out

Expert Biceps Care at Raleigh Orthopaedic

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Raleigh Orthopaedic is a comprehensive orthopedic care facility that deals with all soft and hard tissue pathologies. Our highly trained professionals in orthopedic care are experts at managing biceps tendinitis, rotator cuff injuries, and related shoulder/arm injuries. Contact us today or book an appointment online at one of our clinic locations across Wake County!