Biceps Tendon Problems

Tendinitis and Tendinopathy

Biceps Tendonitis

The biceps tendon is one of the most special tendons in the body. Tendons attach muscle to bones, and every muscle has at least two of them – at either end. The biceps muscle has two parts – a long part and a short part. So therefore, the biceps tendon has two parts – a ‘long head’ tendon and a ‘short head’ tendon. The long head part is the only tendon in the whole body that actually enters a moving joint.

Biceps tendonitis and tendinopathy can cause pain when flexing the shoulder forward, when extending it backward, or when turning the hand to face palm down. It can also cause pain and snapping sounds when the elbow is bent and the arm is turned so that your hand is out at your side as if to reach sideways.

The most common causes of biceps tendon problems includes:


  • Repetitive lifting overhead
  • Isometric holding with elbow bent (ie carrying bags or babies on forearms)
  • Trauma
  • Frozen Shoulder

If you are suffering from a deep burning or aching pain in the front of your shoulder, which sometimes ‘catches’ on certain movements – or focal pain you can ‘touch’ on the inner front of the upper arm, you could have a biceps tendon problem. Biceps tendon pain can take some time to fix if it’s gone on too long. The treatment for a biceps tendon problem would be different from, say, a bursitis or osteoarthritis – so getting a diagnosis for any pain at the front of the shoulder is important.

Biceps tendon problems are most often found in those aged 18-35. In my personal practice I see them most commonly in nannies (from carrying children on a hip all day), in overhead workers (decorators doing lots of cieling painting) and throwing athletes. Only 5% of sportspeople have a simple biceps tendonitis – 95% will have some kind of additional problem leading to the tendon pain. It is common in athletes with biceps pain to have another pathology such as a labrum tear, rotator cuff tendinopathy or subacromial impingement.

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