Tendinitis of the Long Head of Biceps | Orthopaedics | Loyola Medicine

Tendinitis of the Long Head of the Biceps

Overview and Facts about Tendinitis of the Long Head of the Biceps

Tendinitis of the long head of the biceps (or biceps tendinitis) is an injury to the biceps tendon in the shoulder. This tendon attaches your biceps muscle to the top of the shoulder socket. The injury is usually an inflammation, irritation or tear due to overuse or trauma. Weakness to this area of the shoulder or pain in the front of the shoulder are common symptoms. Your doctor will determine the right treatment plan for you (non-surgical or surgical) depending on the extent of the injury and if your condition improves without surgery. 

Symptoms and Signs of Tendinitis of the Long Head of the Biceps

Pain in the front of the shoulder or weakness in the affected area are the most common symptoms of biceps tendinitis. Other symptoms include:

  • Tenderness
  • Aching along the upper arm bone
  • Difficulty/pain when lifting the shoulder
  • Clicking or snapping noise/sensation with shoulder movements 

Causes and Risk Factors of Tendinitis of the Long Head of the Biceps

Common causes of biceps tendinitis are overuse over time and trauma. It is also associated with other shoulder injuries, including SLAP tears, osteoarthritis, rotator cuff injuries and shoulder instability.

Athletes in certain sports, such as swimming, baseball and tennis, are at a higher risk for this injury because of the repetition of overhead motions. 

Tests and Diagnosis for Tendinitis of the Long Head of the Biceps

Your doctor will discuss your physical symptoms and review your medical history in order to diagnose biceps tendinitis. They will examine your shoulder and biceps for signs of tenderness, weakness and range of motion. Imaging tests, such as X-rays or MRIs, can also help your doctor look for signs of damage to other areas of the shoulder joint and show the biceps tendon soft tissue in greater detail. 

Treatment and Care for Tendinitis of the Long Head of the Biceps

Treatment for biceps tendinitis typically begins with non-surgical methods, such as rest, icing the affected area and anti-inflammatory medications. Physical therapy is also important as a first step to care to increase your shoulder strength and restore range of motion.

If non-surgical methods do not improve your condition, your doctor may recommend a cortisone injection of the tendon sheath, arthroscopic or open surgery to repair the biceps tendon. After surgery, you will need to participate in a physical therapy program after a short period of time wearing a sling to protect your healing tendon. Rehabilitation is important to restore range of motion and flexibility in the affected joint, and to reduce the risk of future injury. Working with your doctor and physical therapist, you will develop a timeline for safely returning to your work, sport and/or level of activity.