Do you have any information on corrective exercises for biceps tendonitis? I would like to explore symptoms, prevention, rehab and post rehab measures for this condition.
Biceps tendonitis is a common condition in which the long tendon of the biceps muscle (located on the front of the upper arm) becomes inflamed. It most often occurs as a result of repetitive or excessive stress on the tendon from lifting objects with the arm in a stretched position. Less common causes are preexisting conditions such as inflammatory rheumatic diseases. Possible symptoms include the following:
- Swelling and/or tenderness around the injury site
- Weakness of the tendon
- Pain in the front of the shoulder when the arm is overhead or bent
- Possible tendon rupture, especially if heavy lifting is not discontinued
- Occasional snapping sound or sensation around the shoulder
The risk of developing biceps tendonitis increases with age and is greater in people who routinely perform activities requiring repetitive motions that stress the tendons, such as construction workers and athletes. Doctors confirm the presence of biceps tendonitis by assessing the patient during a series of movements with the affected arm or, less frequently, through an anesthetic injection test. This test is used to rule out other possible conditions and temporarily relieves the patient’s pain. If there is shoulder instability, an orthopedist could recommend arthroscopic surgery to anchor the tendon properly.
Ways to prevent biceps tendonitis before it occurs are simple to do but too often are not done. They include the following:
- Warm up the upper arm and shoulder area before exercise
- Don’t go beyond your physical limits
- Stretch the biceps and shoulders after exercise
- Perform a proper cool down
When biceps tendonitis has occurred, precautions should be taken such as eliminating heavy lifting, avoiding overhead movements, only lifting objects close to your body and maintaining good posture. Ice can be used to reduce inflammation caused by biceps tendonitis. Dr. Bruce C Anderson recommends applying ice packs to the front of the shoulder area for 15 or 20 minutes every four to six hours.
Heat can also be used and should be done for 15 to 20 minutes prior to stretching. Trainers for the New York Jets recommend this technique. Put a warm moist towel over the joint, then a plastic bag and a heating pad set on low. Hold it all together by wrapping a loose elastic bandage around it.
Stretching and muscle strengthening exercises can provide relief as well. Some examples are listed below.
- Hold a five to 10 pound weight at your side and let your arm swing like a pendulum, increasing the range as symptoms improve (usually starting about four days after the original injury)
- Elbow flexion exercises such as bicep curls with light weight (usually initiated three or four weeks after injury)
- Hold arms out to side, turn palms down, reach back to stretch biceps
- Internal and external rotation exercises with a light resistance band
- Shoulder flexion exercises
Patients should follow the orders of their doctor or physical therapist following rehab and can return to normal activities and sports only after the area has healed. If possible, it’s a good idea to avoid the activity that originally caused the biceps tendonitis.