Sports Rehabilitation for Biceps Tendonitis

pitcher throwing

Sports Rehabilitation and biceps tendonitis is commonly seen in sports that require repetitive overhead activity such as swimming, tennis and baseball(especially pitchers). This injury usually evolves over a period of time where there is wear and tear of the biceps tendon.

By definition biceps tendonitis is an inflammation or irritation of the long head of the muscle.

To clarify, the biceps muscle consists of two tendons, the long head which attaches to the top of the shoulder and the short head which attaches to a bump on the shoulder blade. When you hear the term biceps tendonitis it refers to the long head within the shoulder socket. In this article I will discuss sports rehabilitation for this condition.

Symptoms of Biceps Tendonitis

man holding shoulderThe classic symptoms of this condition are (1) pain in the front of the shoulder which increases with elevation of the arm and lifting (2) pain that radiates down the upper arm (3) a snapping sound with arm motion and (4) weakness of the biceps muscle. Fact any muscle that has a tendon that is inflamed weakness is bound to settle in.

When an athlete presents these symptoms the doctor goes through the examination to verify the condition. At first an x-ray is taken just to see if there are any problems with the bony structure. Next an MRI is ordered to get an accurate image of the tendon which in this case is swollen and dark on film. Once the diagnosis is confirmed the next step is sports rehabilitation.

Sports Rehabilitation with Biceps Tendonitis

The first step is to stop the overhead activity and begin resting the involved area. Periodic ice applications and taking anti-inflammatory medication starts reducing the acute pain. The doctor may opt to give the athlete a steroid injection if the pain is not subsiding in a few days.

Sports Rehabilitation usually starts immediately where the specialist uses modalities to rid the area of inflammation and acute pain. The therapist has many methods to do this. Phonophoresis and iontophoresis are methods that are used to deliver steroids into an area and is much safer than an injection. Phonophoresis uses ultrasound and iontophoresis uses electrical impulses to deliver medication through the skin.

us shoulderUsing ultrasound by itself works on soothing an inflamed area, electrical stimulation prevents scar tissue formation and cold laser enhances the healing process.

Most important part of the sports rehabilitation process here is the specific range of motion and strengthening exercises. These exercises are designed by the specialist to prevent the shoulder from losing mobility and becoming frozen. It is totally amazing how weak the shoulder becomes with an inflamed biceps tendon.

During this period it is extremely important to perform the exercises daily at home with the guidance of the specialist. In developing the strength and endurance the therapist will utilize resistive bands, free weights and an upper body ergometer (bicycle for the UBEarms). To avoid flare ups during the strengthening it is safer for the individual to start out with low weight and resistance.

Return to Sports

With the completion of the sports rehabilitation program the athlete can return to play provided pain is controlled, mobility and strength is restored. It is highly recommended that a maintenance program be put into place so as to prevent relapse of the condition.