Biceps Tendinopathy Diagnosis, Treatment, and Recovery

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The biceps muscle is located in the front of the upper arm, with the upper portion attaching to the front of the shoulder, and the lower portion attaching to the forearm. The biceps muscle is often used for activities such as lifting, pulling, reaching, throwing, and twisting of your forearm. Overuse of the biceps in these kinds of activities can result in biceps tendinopathy, and sometimes even tears in the upper biceps tendon.

Biceps tendinopathy refers to tendinitis and fraying of the biceps that can result in pain and tenderness in the region. This condition is frequently diagnosed incorrectly, as it is often confused with rotator cuff tendinopathy. Today, we will go into further detail regarding the causes, signs, and symptoms of biceps tendinopathy, along with the effective methods used for treatment and recovery.

Causes, Signs, and Symptoms of Biceps Tendinopathy

Biceps tendinopathy is typically caused due to overuse of the biceps tendon through activities such as throwing, swimming, gymnastics, golf, tennis, or martial arts. Individuals who have jobs that require heavy lifting, carpentry, and overhead work are also at risk for biceps tendinopathy. It is most commonly seen in people between the ages of 18 and 35.

Biceps tendinopathy is rarely seen in isolation, as it often coexists with other shoulder pathologies, such as rotator cuff impingement syndrome, rotator cuff tears, labral tears, SLAP lesions, and shoulder osteoarthritis.

The symptoms of biceps tendinopathy typically consist of:

  • Pain in the region of the anterior shoulder, occasionally radiating down to the elbow.
  • Pain resulting from overhead activities.
  • Pain that aggravates with shoulder flexion, forearm supination, or elbow flexion.
  • Fatigue in shoulder movements.
  • Pain at night.
  • Symptoms that lessen with rest, ice, massage, stretching, and sometimes heat.


Doctors typically use plain radiography (X-ray), ultrasonography, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to diagnose the condition.

  • Plain Radiology (X-Ray) may show calcifications in the biceps tendon or demonstrate associated degeneration in the glenohumeral or acromioclavicular joint.
  • Ultrasonography is used to evaluate the dynamic function of the biceps tendon. It can also point out ruptures or instability.
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is executed to rule out coexisting shoulder injuries, such as rotator cuff tears, labral tears, and biceps ruptures.

Biceps Tendinopathy Treatment

Treatment methods for biceps tendinopathy typically focus on reducing inflammation and swelling, strengthening the muscle, and preventing tendon rupture from occurring.  In the majority of cases, surgery is not required. Listed below are some of the treatment methods that we use regularly for biceps tendinopathy here at JIS Orthopedics:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Ibuprofen or Naproxen are often recommended for five to seven days.
  • Physical Therapy. Usually includes stretching and strengthening exercises, sometimes even a massage or ultrasound.
  • Biceps tendon sheath injections. Steroid injections can be very useful in both diagnosing and treating the inflamed biceps tendon.
  • Often recommended in the case of a partially torn tendon or when there is an associated labral tear or significant rotator cuff tear.

Recovery / Healing

There is no set time for recovery from biceps tendinopathy, as it varies based on the severity of your condition. Depending on your situation, your doctor will discuss your goals, time frames, and training schedules to optimize a recovery method best suited for you. Once you are able to move your arm in all directions without pain, it is safe to slowly ease back into your everyday activities and sports.

JIS Orthopedics can diagnose and treat your injury, and help you recover

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above, then you may have biceps tendinopathy. If so, it is important to make sure that you get a proper diagnosis and begin treatment in the early stages, before it results in a complete tear or another worsened condition. That’s why JIS Orthopedics is here to help. Give us a call today and begin your road to recovery with us!


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