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Biceps tendinitis occurs when one of the tendons of the biceps muscle becomes inflamed. The inflammation is typically caused by repetitive movements, particularly overhead reaching, throwing, pulling, or lifting. The condition can come on slowly through overuse and aging or rapidly when caused by a traumatic injury. Sometimes biceps tendinitis is caused by a secondary condition, such as impingement syndrome or rotator cuff disease, as well.
People who have an increased likelihood of developing biceps tendinitis are those who perform repetitive activities, especially repeated overhead movements. For example, people working in a warehouse may repeatedly lift or retrieve heavy items from shelves located above their heads. Painters and carpenters may perform overhead motions, such as painting and hammering overhead, as well. These types of repetitive activities may put undue stress on the biceps tendons or may exhaust the tendons when the activities occur for days, weeks, months, or years on end.
Athletes engage in activities that may cause biceps tendinitis as well. For example, a baseball pitcher who repeatedly performs the throwing motion is at risk for developing the disorder. In addition, a swimmer or a gymnast may repeatedly move her arms in such a way that the tendon becomes inflamed, causing the disorder.
Biceps tendinitis may be the result of a secondary condition, such as impingement syndrome or a torn rotator cuff, as well. Impingement syndrome is a disorder where the soft tissue surrounding the ball of the shoulder joint becomes pinched by the shoulder blade. It can be the result of age or repetitive activities, such as overhead lifting. If the rotator cuff of the shoulder is torn, it may also be the result of stress or overuse of the tendons of the biceps and shoulder, causing biceps tendinitis.
There are several other less common causes of biceps tendinitis as well. For example, the disorder may be caused by calcifications within the biceps tendon. It may also be caused by an instability of the tendon itself. These conditions are typically treatable through surgery or physical therapy.
Individuals affected by biceps tendinitis may have pain near the front of their shoulder, which may become worse at night. The pain can also increase with increased pulling, lifting, or repeatedly reaching overhead. When symptoms are experienced, a skilled medical provider should be consulted. Once diagnosed, the affected person may be prescribed prescription pain medication and physical therapy. In the worst cases, surgery may be recommended.