Does the front of your shoulder ache or hurt when you make certain movements? This could be tendonitis of the biceps. Biceps tendonitis is a common ailment in the anterior or front of the shoulder often caused by repetitive use. Tendonitis is inflammation of the connective tissue that connects a muscle to bone, often causing pain. In this case, it represents the inflammation of the tendon which connects the biceps muscle to the bone in the front of your shoulder.
How Biceps Tendonitis Happens
Our daily lives involve doing activities that typically put us in a rounded forward position, including: driving, typing, texting, cooking, etc. Having our shoulders chronically rolled forward in combination with reaching in front of us and overhead can put a ton of strain on our biceps tendon.
Common symptoms of biceps tendonitis are:
Pain or ache in the front of your shoulder
Pain with overhead activity
Pain with reaching across your body
Pain with reaching behind you, such as to tuck in your shirt
Tenderness to touch in the front of your shoulder
Relieving Biceps Tendonitis Pain
You have these symptoms, now what? With any repetitive, chronic issue, improvement will take time. One of the most important things you can start doing is stretching. Repetitive tasks as well as poor posture can lead to tight muscles in our shoulders. Tight muscles can put us in an endless cycle of creating more inflammation and pain as we may not be able to get out of the forward position that cause the issue in the first place.
Here are two simple stretches that you can do to reduce the tightness:
Find a doorway that you can put one or both forearms on. Put your arms up in a field goal position on the doorway then step into the doorway while standing tall until you feel a stretch in your chest. Do not push into pain. Hold for 30 seconds. If having your arms up this high is too uncomfortable, try a lower position.
This stretch can be performed on the wall, as shown, or in a doorway like the pecs stretch. Place your palm, thumb up, on the wall or door frame. Standing up tall with your shoulders rolled down and back, turn away from the wall until you feel a stretch in the front of your shoulder and possibly down the front of your arm. Do not push into pain. Hold for 30 seconds. If at shoulder level is too uncomfortable, lower your hand a little bit until you just feel a stretch.
Strengthen Shoulders to Avoid Biceps Tendonitis
Now that you are working on reducing the tightness in your shoulders, how do you maintain this improvement? Strengthening! When our shoulders are chronically rolled forward, the muscles in our upper back and posterior shoulder become overstretched and weak. Strengthening doesn’t have to involve you going to the gym and lifting heavy weights. It also doesn’t have to involve any equipment if you don’t want to or don’t have access to any. Here are some easy strengthening exercises you can do on the edge of your bed or on the floor:
Shoulder Extension (Palm Up)
Find a comfortable spot for you to lay on your stomach. You can use your other hand or a small towel roll to put under your head to keep your head and neck in good alignment. Have your arm straight by your side with your palm up then squeeze your shoulder blade down and back. Once you’re in that position, lift your arm up toward the ceiling. Pause, then with control bring your arm back to the starting position. Repeat 10 times.
Shoulder Extension (Palm Down)
Same as above with the exception of your palm being down instead. Repeat 10 times.
Have your arm straight out to the side with your thumb up. Squeeze your shoulder blade down and back then lift your arm towards the ceiling. Slowly lower arm back to the starting position.
Treating Biceps Tendonitis
A common question we get is, “Should I ice or use heat?” for biceps tendonitis pain. Typically, we recommend ice in the first 72 hours of noticing pain—after that, use heat, such as a heating pad. However, listen to your body. If one feels better than the other, use it. You can also alternate ice and heat using this regimen:
10-15 minutes of ice
Wait 1 hour
10-15 minutes of heat
Helpful Tip: DON’T apply ice right before doing the stretches and exercises above. It will be counterproductive.
These tips should help reduce your pain and can be used as proactive methods to reduce your risk for biceps tendonitis. If you have any questions or concerns regarding your shoulder pain, please reach out to Balanced Fitness & Health so one of our skilled, trained physical therapists can help get you out of pain.
~ Alex Moctezuma, PTA ~