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Best Exercises for Biceps Tendonitis

Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on November 08, 2020

Biceps tendonitis is the inflammation of the soft tissues and tendon that runs along your bicep. This can cause pain, swelling, and redness along the outside of your shoulder and your arm. It’s often caused by sports injuries and heavy lifting. There are several types of exercises that can help reduce the symptoms of biceps tendonitis and relieve pain while the injury heals.

Exercises to Help Biceps Tendonitis

Biceps tendonitis is generally a chronic injury, where the tendon sheath has become inflamed over a long period of use. As a result, the most important treatment for biceps tendonitis is rest to allow the tendon sheath to heal. While the injury is healing, however, you can perform exercises to keep your should and bicep flexible and your muscles strong.

Vertical Shoulder Flexion

This exercise helps you maintain your vertical range of motion while your tendon heals.

Step 1: Stand upright with your injured arm hanging loose at your side.

Step 2: Slowly raise your arm by bringing it in front of your body until it’s vertical over your head. Make sure to keep your elbow straight.

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Step 3: Hold your arm over your head for five seconds, then lower it back to your side.

You can repeat this ten times per set, and complete three sets per day.

Biceps Curls

Biceps curls help maintain the flexibility of your elbow and maintain the strength of your biceps.

Step 1: Stand upright with your injured arm hanging at your side, palm facing out.

Step 2: Gently bend your injured arm at the elbow, bringing your palm toward your shoulder. 

Step 3: Hold this bend for thirty seconds, then slowly release back to the starting position.

You can do this twice per set, and complete two sets daily. As the exercise begins to feel easier, you can add a weight to your hand.

Biceps Stretch

Stretching your biceps can help keep them from tightening and making tendonitis feel worse.

Step 1: Stand six inches in front of a wall, and hold your injured arm out horizontally just below shoulder height.

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Step 2: Place the side of your thumb against the wall, keeping your hand palm-down. 

Step 3: Gently turn away from the wall in the opposite direction from your arm until you feel a stretch, then hold for fifteen seconds.

You can repeat this three times daily.

Internal Rotation Stretch

Internal rotation is the movement of your arm in the shoulder socket when your hands turn from facing from front to back, and it heavily involves your biceps tendon. This exercise helps maintain that rotation.

Step 1: Stand upright and hold a yardstick, broom, or other stick behind your back in both hands, knuckles facing down. 

Step 2: Slowly raise the stick up your back with both hands until you feel a stretch in your injured arm. 

Step 3: Hold this position for thirty seconds, then gently release your arms back down. 

Repeat this twice in a row, twice daily, for four total repetitions.

External Rotation Stretch

This exercise works the opposite motion of the internal rotation stretch.

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Step 1: Hold an exercise band in both hands at about waist height. 

Step 2: Gently pull it apart, keeping both elbows bent at a right angle so your arms are parallel to the floor.

Step 3: When you feel a gentle stretch in your arm, slowly release back to a neutral position. 

You can repeat this ten times per set, and your goal should be to complete three sets.

Forearm Twists

Forearm twists help keep your arm flexible and help your tendon glide smoothly along the biceps muscle. 

Step 1: Allow your injured arm to hang at your side, then bend your elbow to a 90-degree angle. 

Step 2: Turn your palm so it faces upward, and hold the position for five seconds.

Step 3: Rotate your palm so it faces downward, and hold the position for five seconds.

Repeat this ten times per set, and aim for three sets per day.

Safety Considerations

Tendonitis is aggravated by repetitive motions and exertion. The most important thing you can do for biceps tendonitis is to take it easy. If you feel discomfort or pain during any exercise for your tendonitis, stop and rest. You can use ice and standard pain relievers to reduce swelling and soreness. If your tendonitis doesn’t get better after a week or two, you should reach out to your physician for treatment advice and potentially a physical to examine the injury. 

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

Center for Sports Medicine: “Biceps Tendinopathy and Strain.”

Kansas Orthopaedic Center: “Biceps Teondon Tendinitis (Proximal) and Tenosynovitis.”

Mayo Clinic: “Biceps tendonitis.”

Mayo Clinic: “Tendinitis.”

Primary Care Sports Medicine: “Biceps Tendonitis.”

UC Health: “Understanding Biceps Tendonitis (Proximal).”

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