Biceps tendinitis, or more accurately known as tendinopathy, is an injury synonymous with sporting activities which require repetitive overhead movements such as throwing a cricket ball or swinging a tennis racquet. Symptoms can vary in terms of severity, ranging from a spasmodic popping sound or sensation in the shoulder area to a dull pain when the arm is bent or extended overhead and a localized sensitivity as the supraspinatus tendon passes over the depression in the humerus (upper arm bone).
Comprising of three main joints (the glenohumeral, acromioclavicular and sternoclavicular joints) and a labyrinth of fibrous tissue (including various muscles, tendons and ligaments) the shoulder has a wider and more varied range of motion than any other joint in the human body. However, as a result of this flexibility, and because it is held in place with articular cartilage and various muscles rather than bone, it is also one of the most unstable joints.
During sporting activities or general exercise the muscles in the arm move the humerus, scapula or clavicle bones by tugging on tendons. Over exertion of these particular muscles and tendons (particularly the four rotator cuff muscles – subscapularis, supraspinatus, infraspinatus and teres minor) can often lead to inflammation or irritation – this condition is called biceps tendinitis. Following diagnosis by a physician, there are a number of ways to treat and prevent this condition from occurring in the future. Some of these ‘conservative’ treatments include:
- Frequent breaks from the causative activity should become routine, especially for serious athletes who follow strict exercise regimes requiring intense physical exertion.
- Reducing or ceasing activity at the first indication of pain or overuse is also considered one of the most effective ways to prevent biceps tendinitis amongst serious athletes (avoiding activity during the acute phase is strongly recommended, and often essential).
- Resting at regular intervals by ceasing activity and stretching during exercise has proven to reduce the risk of this condition considerably.
- Minor injuries can often be treated by applying ice to the injury for 15 to 20 minutes to control swelling in the joint. This should be done at least 4 times a day, for several days.
- Inflammation and pain can be reduced with the intake of ibuprofen (Nurofen, Antiflam, Brufen)
- Gentle stretching and strengthening exercises can be done once the acute pain is gone. This will help prevent another episode of biceps tendinitis in future.
- Arthroscopic surgery may be required for severe cases of biceps tendinitis. During this procedure, an orthopaedic surgeon will examine the affected tendons and make the necessary repairs.
Ideally located within the Sports Science Institute of South Africa in Newlands, the SSOC (Sports Science Orthopaedic Clinic) is the leading orthopaedic clinic in Cape Town, offering complete care to both the general public and a number of well-known sporting teams and athletes. With a team of highly skilled and experienced orthopaedic specialists, the SSOC offers an extensive range of surgical procedures and biological healing processes for joints such as the knee, shoulder and collar bone, foot and ankle, hand and wrist, as well as the hip and leg.
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