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Biceps tendon pain

If you have pain in your arm, between the shoulder and elbow, it may be caused by an injury to a tendon connected to the biceps muscle. We look at the symptoms and the latest treatments.

Man with bicep tendon pain holds his shoulder in discomfort
If you have pain in your upper arm, between the shoulder and elbow, it may be caused by damage or injury to a tendon connected to the biceps muscle. Your biceps muscle is located on the front part of your upper arm and is attached to the bones in your arm, elbow and shoulder by tough connective tissues called tendons. Should you injure a biceps tendon, you may experience a sharp pain near the affected area.

There are a number of causes of biceps tendon pain, outlined below, but for expert assessment, diagnosis and advice on treatment from one of our highly-experienced orthopaedic consultants, do contact us to book your appointment at a time that is convenient for you.

The two most common reasons for biceps tendon pain are tendonitis and tendon tears.

  • Tendonitis: Tendons connect muscles to bones, and if a particular movement is repeated too often, or the level of activity is increased too quickly, it can cause small tears in the tendon. This leads to the tendons to swell up and become painful, a condition known as tendonitis. Biceps tendonitis can occur in the shoulder or elbow, although it is uncommon to experience it in both at the same time.
  • Tendon tears: In some instances, if you seriously injure a tendon, it can become torn. Types of injuries that may cause a tendon tear include falling down onto an outstretched arm or lifting a heavy weight at an awkward or unusual angle. Depending on the severity of the injury, a biceps tear can be partial or complete, a complete tear meaning the tendon has torn away from the bone. Similar to biceps tendonitis, a biceps tendon tear can occur at either your shoulder or elbow.

Biceps tendon pain can usually be treated effectively, with the treatment options dependent on the exact cause of your pain. If you have experienced a loss of strength in your muscle due to a tear or tendonitis, you would normally be expected to regain nearly all of the strength back again over time.

As with many injuries, placing a cold ice pack on the affected area may help to reduce swelling and pain. Painkillers, particularly non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as aspirin or ibuprofen, can also help to relieve pain. Your consultant may recommend that you see a physiotherapist for help in your recovery, while in the most severe cases of tendonitis, you may be advised to have a cortisone injection to help ease the pain and swelling. Known as a corticosteroid injection, this can help reduce inflammation in the tendon and aid recovery.

In many cases, the pain caused by a biceps tendon tear can be effectively managed using the treatments mentioned above for biceps tendonitis. However, there are times when surgery may be required to repair a torn tendon and/or reattach it to the bone, and this will depend upon the extent of the tear. Should surgery be necessary, this will be explained in detail by your Consultant and you will have the chance to ask them any questions you may have.

Should your pain be severe enough to impact upon your quality of life and ability to take part in sporting activities has been significantly impacted by the condition, and non-surgical management strategies have yet to make a noticeable difference, surgery may be considered. When it comes to surgery to treat the cause of biceps tendon pain, we have two main priorities:

  • treat you quickly, so that you’re not in pain any longer
  • return function to your arm and shoulder, so that you can carry on enjoying life as soon as possible.

Following your operation, you are likely to need to work on your flexibility and strength using specific exercises, and the dedicated physiotherapy team in your hospital will be able to help and support you with this throughout your recovery.

It is easy to book an appointment with one of our orthopaedic surgeons today, at a time that is convenient for you. If you’ve been struggling with pain in your upper arm, shoulder or elbow, why not book a time to come and talk to one of our specialists. Our staff are experts in their field and will be able to expertly assess the cause of your pain and advise you on the best treatment option.

If you’ve been dealing with pain and/or less movement in your upper arm for a while, the last thing you want is to have to wait any longer for it to be treated. We have no waiting lists, meaning that you can be seen by one of our specialists promptly and receive any treatment you need without undue delay.

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