Bicep tendonitis usually starts with burning pain at the inception of the bicep, around the ball and socket joint in the shoulder. If not rested and allowed to heal, this minor pain, often caused by small tears in the tendon, can turn into a much more disruptive, ongoing problem called bicep tendonitis.
Bicep tendonitis is most common near the shoulder, but can also occur near the elbow. Symptoms of bicep tendonitis include:
- a burning pain
- weakness or pain when moved
- heat and redness
While tendonitis is attributed to inflammation of the tendons connecting the bicep to the shoulder and elbow, it’s rarely visible as swelling to the eye. If you have obvious swelling, it may be a sign that you’ve more seriously damaged your muscle or tendon, and so you should see your doctor before deciding on the best way to treat your injury.
In most cases, bicep tendonitis can be treated and cured with rest and rehabilitation exercises, such as those discussed below and in our ebook Joint Health 101, more severe cases may warrant surgical intervention. If you follow our advice and utilize the exercises we talk about here and in Joint Health 101 and you don’t see an improvement, or if it gets worse, make sure you speak to your doctor.
5 Bicep Tendonitis Exercises to Relieve Pain
1. Bicep Stretch
Stand close to a wall facing it, about 6-12 inches away. With your hand on your injured arm in a natural, relaxed position facing your thigh, slowly raise it until your thumb touches the wall.
With your arm straight, slowly turn your body away from your arm until you feel a stretch in your bicep. Hold the stretch for 15 seconds, then release it and rest for 30-60 seconds. Complete two further reps.
2. Flex and Extend
This is a very simple exercise that’s great for combating stiffness because you can do it at any time. When you are doing your other stretches, or whenever you feel your arm becoming stiff, hold your arm straight with your palm facing forward (away from you).
Slowly, bend at the elbow and try to touch your fingertips to your shoulder. Don’t push past where it hurts. Then, slowly, straighten your arm. This is a great exercise to use to warm up with, whether you’re rehabilitating an injury or simply trying to avoid a reoccurrence of a prior tendonitis flare-up. Complete 8-15 reps and 3 sets, or simply do a few reps when you feel your arm getting stiff.
3. Shoulder Flexion
This exercise is essentially the shoulder version of the above. This time, instead of flexing at the elbow, raise your entire arm from the shoulder. With your arm straight, raise your arm until it forms a 90-degree angle with your body. If your injury is acute and you feel resistance, don’t go any higher. However, if that feels easy, raise your arm until your fingertips point up to the ceiling.
In either position, hold the pose for 2-10 seconds, and then carefully return to a relaxed position. Do 8-15 reps and 1-3 sets. If you need to decrease or increase the hold time, do so.
4. Laying Resistance Stretch
Lie on your injured side (in bed or on a soft mat), supporting your head with a cushion, pillow, or yoga block. Bend both or one knee for stability. With the injured arm resting comfortably in front of you, flex at the elbow so your fingers point up at the ceiling. With your other arm, gently push your injured arm back toward the floor, resisting it with your injured arm for 10-30 seconds. Rest and repeat. Adjust how much resistance you use based on how your injured arm feels.
5. Gentle Bicep Curls
If you’re an athlete or avid gym-goer, it can be difficult to imagine doing bicep curls without significant weight, but that’s what you need to do here. Use a lightweight to do gentle curls for your injured arm. This could be a light dumbbell (2-8lbs), a can of soup, or even a full soda bottle. Carefully bend at the elbow, raising the weight to your shoulder, pause, and slowly relax. Repeat 8-15 reps for 1-3 sets, as feels right for you.
It’s important to remember that muscles and joints don’t work in isolation, and repetitive strain injuries—as bicep tendonitis is so often—can be avoided and managed by strengthening the surrounding muscles and joints. If you’re looking to improve your overall strength and avoid injury, you need Joint Health 101 to guide you. This eBook will guide you through all the best exercises, stretches, home remedies, and dietary changes you can make to have the best joint health of your life. Click here to find out more.