Biceps tendinitis occurs when there is an inflammation or irritation of the tendons in the upper biceps. Also known as the long head of the biceps tendon, it is a chord-like structure that connects the biceps muscle to the shoulder bones.


Your shoulder is made up of three bones: your upper arm bone (humerus), your shoulder blade (scapula), and your collarbone (clavicle). The head of the upper arm bone (glenoid) fits into the rounded socket. The rotator cuff is a combination of muscles and tendons that attach the glenoid to the shoulder blade.  In other words, it is the muscle in front of the upper arm with two tendons that attach the bones to the shoulder socket.


The cause of biceps tendinitis can be due to a number of lifetime activities. As people age, their tendons become weaker. The condition can worsen due to overuse by repetitive shoulder motions of certain occupations such as painting, while doing chores or through sports activity. Activities such as swimming, baseball, and tennis also put people at risk for developing biceps tendinitis.


  • Pain and tenderness in the front of the shoulder that seems to worsen with overhead lifting

  • Pain that moves down the upper arm bone

  • An occasional snapping sound or sensation in the shoulder.


You can treat most cases of biceps tendinitis with rest and medication. Use ice to keep the swelling down along with non-steroidal and anti-inflammatory medications to relieve pain. Also, cortisone shots can be used, but in some cases a steroid injection can weaken the already weak tendon and can cause it to tear. Severe cases of tendinitis may require surgery.


Surgery is most commonly performed arthroscopically. The surgeon will insert a small camera into the shoulder to help guide surgical tools into the area.