Can a biceps injury occur without a specific traumatic event? In my latest Ask Dr. Geier column, I discuss biceps tendon pain at the shoulder.

Lance Fancher in Rimersburg, Pennsylvania asks:
About a week ago I started to notice some pain in the area of the bicep around shoulder, more of the small head of the muscle I believe. I will get bit of a burning pain once in a while and also has kind of a numb feeling to it when rubbing a finger along it. I am a pro wrestler and lift a lot, but I can’t think of a time that I did something and felt a pop or instant pain. I have no bruising or the Popeye look to it. Could this be just a pull or a nerve thing, or should I be worried about a tear of the muscle?

Often we see biceps tendon ruptures at the elbow or at the shoulder. Usually the patient recalls a specific event where he feels a pop. Then he notices swelling or bruising at the injury site and a muscle bulge in the middle of the arm, often called a Popeye deformity.

Signs and symptoms of biceps tendon pain

It is common for a young, athletic person to have pain at the biceps tendon as it attaches to the glenoid at the shoulder. It often results from a repetitive activity like throwing or lifting weights. The pain can result from inflammation of that tendon or even fraying of the tendon. Often the athlete feels pain in the front of the shoulder or deep in the shoulder with activity.

Location of biceps tendon pain of the shoulder
Location of the biceps tendon

Treatment of biceps tendon pain

Often a short course of physical therapy can help decrease pain and restore muscle strength. That combined with a short period of activity modification can help him return to sports and exercise.

If there is a question about the nature of the pain or if the symptoms are not improving, an orthopedic surgeon or sports medicine physician can order an MRI to look at the integrity of the tendon and the presence of any other structural damage in the shoulder, such as a SLAP tear or rotator cuff tear.

Also read:
Ask Dr. Geier: Return to activity after meniscus surgery
Ask Dr. Geier – Injections for osteoarthritis

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