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Biceps Tendonitis

Biceps Tendonitis Overview

Biceps tendonitis can be a very painful condition caused by inflammation of the long head biceps tendon. The affected area is located where the biceps muscle meets the front of the shoulder. Winston Salem, Greensboro, High Point, North Carolina area shoulder specialist, Dr. Brian Waterman has extensive experience in treating bicep tendonitis.

Biceps tendonitis affects athletes and other active patients as they get older and the shoulder begins to wear out. Overuse and repetitive shoulder movement are the main causes of this shoulder injury. Multi-directional instability, trauma to the shoulder joint, rubbing of bone spurs, shoulder arthritis and a rotator cuff injury can also be culprits.

Symptoms of Biceps Tendonitis

The long head biceps tendon displays several warning signs as it experiences damage. Many patients experience intermittent or constant shoulder pain typically at the front of the shoulder and extending down the biceps muscle. The pain will be more prevalent when a patient extends the arm in front of the body or when they raise the arm above the shoulder. The affected area may be sensitive to touch and may be red and swollen. Some patients experience a snapping sound during movement of the shoulder joint.

Diagnosis of Biceps Tendonitis

Diagnosis for inflammation of the long head biceps tendon involves an examination of a patient’s bicep muscle and shoulder. Dr. Waterman will test for signs of tenderness and inflammation during the exam. Diagnostic tests such as X-rays and an MRI may also be ordered to identify other possible shoulder injuries.
Treatment of Biceps Tendonitis

Dr.Waterman should be contacted immediately if chronic symptoms develop or if there is an acute tear of the long head biceps tendon.


Biceps tendon inflammation is typically treated in many patients with a combination of rest, ice and anti-inflammatory medications. Dr. Waterman may recommend a corticosteroid injection in cases where patients experience intense pain for an extended duration. The injection is done under the guidance of an ultrasound to assure that the medicine reaches the correct point directly adjacent to the tendon.


If non-surgical treatment options do not alleviate pain, an arthroscopic shoulder surgery may be recommended by Dr. Waterman and his orthopedic team. The damaged section of the biceps tendon may be removed and the remaining tendon is reattached to the upper arm through a shoulder treatment called biceps tenodesis. By removing the damaged area, the pain and inflammation will be reduced and normal shoulder function will become restored.

In more severe cases where the long head biceps tendon cannot be repaired, a shoulder treatment called biceps tenotomy may be recommended. This procedure involves the release of the damaged biceps tendon from its attachment site.

At a Glance

Dr. Brian Waterman, MD

  • Chief & Fellowship Director, Sports Medicine, Wake Forest
  • Team Physician, Wake Forest University, Chicago White Sox
  • Military affiliation/Decorated military officer and surgeon
  • Learn more

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