Biceps Tendonitis

From the WebMD Archives

By Amy McGorry

With all the throwing and hitting in baseball, it's no wonder shoulder injuries like biceps tendonitis are common. This injury can occur in athletes who participate in overhead sports or sports involving heavy pulling and lifting movements. Sure, this “ego muscle” looks good (even Anchorman’s Ron Burgundy did curls to impress the ladies), but overdoing it with too heavy of a weight can make things tough when a biceps tear sidelines you.

When Shoulder Biceps Tendonitis Is A Pain

The bicep stretches from your shoulder to your elbow. It bends your elbow, rotates your forearm and helps stabilize and raise your shoulder. Athletes with biceps tendonitis or tears usually complain of:

  • Shoulder pain
  • Weakness in the elbow or shoulder
  • Discomfort when twisting forearm
  • “Popeye” muscle (muscle that bunches up in the arm after tearing)

Activities like holding a tablet computer can even hurt when this condition strikes.

Why You're Sidelined

Biceps tendonitis can sideline you when a muscle imbalance, joint instability or rotator cuff weakness is present. If your scapula (upper back) muscles are weak and your pectoral muscles (chest) are tight, the shoulder comes more forward than usual. This compromises the bony arch space, which causes rubbing of the tendon as you raise your arm.

Rotator cuff weakness and shoulder instability also cause the shoulder to ride up in the socket and “jam” the overlying biceps tendon, especially with overhead sports motions in baseball, tennis, football and rock climbing. Bony formations and shoulder tears can create “pinching” of the tendon, causing fraying, inflammation and pain. A biceps tear can also happen while weightlifting or moving heavy objects if the force overpowers the strength of the muscle fibers.

How To Stay In The Game

Strengthening the biceps, combined with an overall stretching and strengthening of the chest, upper back, arms and rotator cuff muscles, can help prevent biceps tendonitis from sidelining you.
Try these exercises using a light to moderate dumbbell:

Dumbbell Curls

  • Hold weights in each hand like you're holding hammers, palms facing each other
  • Bend elbows, then slowly straighten them
  • 3 sets of 10 repetitions
  • Do the same motion, but with palms facing up
  • 3 sets of 10 repetitions

Arm Step-Ups

  • Get into push-up formation next to an exercise step
  • With elbows straight, “step up” with arms, then "step down"
  • Alternate the leading arm
  • Build to 30 repetitions

Shoulder Flexion To 90 Degrees

  • Start with arms at sides
  • Lift dumbbells to shoulder height (arms should be bent at 90 degrees)
  • Don’t shrug shoulders
  • 3 sets of 10 repetitions

Prone 'T' On Ball

  • Lie facedown on a physioball
  • Squeeze shoulder blades back
  • Lift arms up to trunk to make a “T” shape with your body
  • Lower arms to ground
  • 3 sets of 10 repetitions

Always check with a physician before any exercise program and remember: You may be sidelined... but not for long!