What it is
Biceps tendonitis is inflammation of the long head of the biceps tendon. Biceps tendonitis usually occurs along with other shoulder problems. In most cases, there is also damage to the rotator cuff tendon.
Other problems that often accompany biceps tendonitis include:
- Arthritis of the shoulder joint
- Tears in the glenoid labrum
- Chronic shoulder instability
- Shoulder impingement
- Other diseases that cause inflammation of the shoulder joint lining
In the early stages of biceps tendonitis, the tendon becomes red and swollen. As tendonitis develops, the tendon sheath (covering) can thicken. The tendon itself often thickens or grows larger.
The tendon in the late stages is often dark red in color due to the inflammation. Occasionally, the damage to the tendon can result in a tendon tear, and then deformity of the arm (a “Popeye” bulge in the upper arm).
In most cases, damage to the biceps tendon is due to a lifetime of overhead activities. As we age, our tendons slowly weaken with everyday wear and tear. This degeneration can be worsened by overuse — repeating the same shoulder motions again and again.
Swimming, tennis, and baseball are some sports examples of repetitive overhead activities. Many jobs and routine chores can cause overuse damage as well.
Repetitive overhead motion plays a part in other shoulder problems that occur with biceps tendonitis. Rotator cuff tears, osteoarthritis, and chronic shoulder instability are often caused by overuse.
Surgical Procedure: Biceps Tenodesis
In some cases, the damaged section of the biceps is removed, and the remaining tendon is reattached to the upper arm bone (humerus). This procedure is called a biceps tenodesis. Removing the painful part of the biceps usually resolves symptoms and restores normal function. Depending on your situation, your surgeon may choose to do this procedure arthroscopically or through an open incision.
Surgery for biceps tendonitis is usually performed arthroscopically. During arthroscopy, your doctor makes small incisions around your shoulder. He or she then inserts a small camera and miniature instruments through the incisions. This allows your doctor to assess the condition of the biceps tendon as well as other structures in the shoulder.