The biceps tendon connects the biceps muscle in the upper arm to the elbow. The tendon acts like a tough connective tissue. Inflammation of this tendon is bicep tendinitis. Physical therapy can help reduce pain and regain mobility. Some of the causes of biceps tendinitis include:
• a fall that injures the shoulder
• excessive weight lifting
• overuse from recreational and sports-related activities
• a sudden twisting motion of the shoulder
There are many symptoms of bicep tendinitis, but the most common symptom is pain at the front of the shoulder joint that extends down the arm i.e. the biceps muscle. Sometimes there may be weakness and decreased motion of the shoulder joint.
Once a diagnosis is confirmed via a thorough evaluation, conservative treatment begins which involves rest, ice and progressive physical therapy. Medical treatment involves the use of over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen and aspirin. A physician may recommend prescription pain killers. In extreme cases, surgery may be required. An orthopedic surgeon can relieve swelling by opening the lining around the tendon and removing the inflamed tissue. However, in those cases physical therapy plays a significant role in post-surgical recovery.
If you are engaged in ongoing, repetitive arm activity at work or home, make sure to rest periodically and do the following:
• Massage the shoulder, arm and elbow
• Stretch the muscles surrounding the shoulder and elbow
• If your arm is tingling, feeling numb or aching, it is time see your physician. If ignored, the condition can become painful and disabling.
Your physical therapist will help you avoid motions and positions that cause pain. Once the pain subsides, manual therapy and therapeutic exercise begin. The therapist will create a plan that consists of muscle strengthening, joint mobility, postural retraining, supporting the shoulder and arm in a sling, and ergonomic intervention.
Biceps tendinitis is the type of condition that feels like an inconvenience at first, but it is not something that should be brushed aside. This condition has the potential to escalate, causing severe pain and reduced movement in the elbow joint. This can impact the patient’s quality of life and interfere with day-to-day tasks like holding a pen, working at a computer, lifting things, driving, cooking and cleaning.
A pain relief intervention plan involving collaboration between your physician and physical therapist is crucial for long-term healing. A therapist can create a carefully designed recovery and rehabilitative routine. This routine may consist of several treatment procedures and techniques available to help facilitate healing of the biceps tendon and mobility in the shoulder and elbow joints. If you or someone you know has symptoms of biceps tendinitis or any health issue that limits strength and movement, we can certainly help. As your preferred physical therapists, we promise to use our professional judgement, experience and interest in your well-being to help you get ‘back in the game’ as quickly as possible.
Dr. Dan Skulavik is a physical therapist at Advanced Physical Therapy in the Food Lion shopping center.