Skip to main content

What Is Bicep Tendonitis?

Biceps tendonitis is an inflammation or irritation of the upper biceps tendon. The upper biceps tendon is also called the long head of the biceps tendon. This strong, cord-like structure connects the biceps muscle to the bones in the shoulder.

In the early stages of biceps tendonitis, the tendon becomes red and swollen. As it develops, the tendon sheath (covering) can thicken. The tendon itself often thickens or grows larger. The tendon in these late stages is often dark red in color due to the inflammation.

Occasionally, the damage to the tendon can result in a tendon tear and then deformity of the arm (a Popeye bulge in the upper arm).

Find a Shoulder or Elbow Specialist

Symptoms of Bicep Tendonitis

The common symptoms of biceps tendonitis are:

  • Pain in the front of the shoulder and
  • Weakness.

They can often be relieved with rest and medication. In severe cases, you may need surgery to repair the tendon.

Cause of Bicep Tendonitis

In most cases, the biceps tendon can be damaged by normal activities. As we age, our tendons slowly weaken with everyday wear and tear. We can make this degeneration worse by overuse — repeating the same shoulder motions again and again.

Many jobs and routine chores can cause overuse damage. Sports activities — particularly those that require repetitive overhead motion, such as swimming, tennis, and baseball — can also put people at risk for biceps tendonitis.

Bicep Tendonitis Treatment

Initially, biceps injuries are treated without surgery. Your doctor may:

  • prescribe medication,
  • rest,
  • ice, and
  • occasionally a guided biceps tendon injection.

If your condition does not improve with nonsurgical treatment, your doctor may suggest surgery.

When to See an Orthopedic Doctor

If you're suffering from shoulder or elbow pain, you may not know when it's appropriate to seek out a specialist for pain relief. Learn how to spot the signs of severe or prolonged pain that can't be remedied at home.