Biceps tendonitis: What is causing that pain in the front of your shoulder - Be My Healer
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Biceps tendonitis: What is causing that pain in the front of your shoulder

biceps tendonitis pain in front of shoulder

There is a very tender, sore and worsening pain in the front of your shoulder. When it's bad, you can even see a big swollen bulge over the area that hurts. Meet biceps tendonitis - the angry, inflamed bicep muscle tendon.

Like lots of other "tendonitis," biceps tendonitis may come and go, annoy the heck out of your life, with a chance of becoming a chronic condition.

In the post, I will chat about biceps tendonitis and how to avoid making it worse, and the best stretches you can start doing to improve healer right now.

Biceps tendonitis: pain in front of shoulder explained

​The name "biceps" is not a stranger to most people.

Who is the "biceps"?

Yes! It is that muscle that the bodybuilders show off when they flex their arm, and you start to see a mountain bulges up on the front of their upper arm.

bicep tendonitis anatomy

​The full name of the bicep muscle is the "bicep brachii". It runs from the top of your shoulder joint to right below the elbow. 

Its main function includes raising arm forward and bending the elbow.​

It has two tendons (thus the "bi" in the name) on the top and the long-head tendon is the commonly problematic one.

What does having biceps tendonitis feel like?

Here is the list of symptoms when your pain in the front of the shoulder is really in fact a biceps tendonitis:

bicep tendonitis pain graph
  • ​Sore and tender pain in the front of the shoulder, Duh!
  • Pain worsen or intensify during prolonged arm activities, especially with lifting and overhead movements
  • Pain will improve with resting and icing
  • Swollen chord-shaped bulging may be seen in the front of the shoulder when the pain is intense
  • May experience shooting pain down the arm
  • May experience painful snapping noise during shoulder movements

Why does all this happen?

​Sometime the biceps tendon become inflamed due to repetitive use or trauma during an accident, such as:

  • Sudden increase in arm activities: moving, remodeling/repainting house, new baby...
  • Chronic overuse from profession or sports: machinist, painter, housekeeper, volleyball player, tennis player, swimmer...
  • Tugging accident such as trying to catch balance when tripped on the stairs
  • Direct trauma such as falling on the shoulder or car accident
shoulder surgery

Biceps tendonitis is also a common addition to other severe, chronic and debilitating shoulder and arm conditions. (I personally see more of this type in my practice)

People often develop biceps tendonitis while dealing with these conditions:​

  • Chronic shoulder conditions such as impingement, frozen shoulder or rotator cuff tear
  • Long recovery after shoulder and arm surgeries
  • Muscle atrophy due to chronic illness, malnutrition and dehydration
  • Deteriorating neck and shoulder posture from sedentary lifestyle, job or aging

Biceps tendonitis may go away with resting and icing. However, if a worsening pain is ignored and untreated, chronic inflammation may result in tissue deterioration and rupture of the muscle tendon

Also, lots of people eventually suffer from biceps tendonitis on both shoulders due to chronic compensation with the uninjured arm. ​If the non-painful arm is suddenly done two times the work, it will go down as a victim as well.

Simple treatments right away

If you suspect tendonitis in your shoulder, you should start with resting and icing ASAP.

#1: Resting

Take a break from the activities that may have caused your shoulder pain. Nothing else you can do that will replace the importance of resting in the process of recovery. 

​This is easier said than done, especially is when you are at work. In that case, plan frequent and short rest breaks for your shoulders. During the breaks, your job is to ice and gently stretch the bicep muscle tendon.

#2: Icing

The best type of icing is done with compression. 

You can strap a small ice pack (or a bag of frozen peas)to your shoulder with some velcros or ace bandages. Fancier shoulder ice pack with compression pump can be bought online.

#3: Gentle stretch of the biceps muscle

Gentle stretching of the biceps muscle will help the tendon to calm down and heal faster. 

You can start this biceps muscle stretch at any time, as long as it does not make the pain worse.​

biceps stretch

Image via

  • Place your hand on the painful side on a wall, a door frame, or a furniture. (Your hand does not have to be as high as the picture shows)
  • Assume a good posture by pinching your shoulder blades together
  • Then turn your trunk away from the outstretched arm
  • You should start to feel a gentle stretch in the front of your shoulder (the same area where the pain is)
  • Avoid over stretching. Keep the pressure gentle
  • Avoid hike or shrug your shoulder. Keep your stretching shoulder relaxed
  • Avoid rolling your shoulder forward. Keep your shoulder pulled back
  • Hold the stretching for 30 seconds, repeat as needed throughout the day

This stretch should not increase the biceps tendonitis pain. If you experience more pain after the stretch, you should reduce the force you put in the stretch. 

In the long run for biceps tendonitis

Do not give up icing and stretching until your pain and symptoms are minimum and dull.

However, as soon as your pain is under control, you may start with exercises for the biceps muscles and the rotator cuff muscles.

​To make sure the tendonitis will not make a comeback, you also want to strengthen your upper back and all postural muscles to keep your shoulders as healthy as possible.

Thank you for reading, and I hope you find this post helpful.

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