Biceps tendinitis, also called bicipital tendinitis, is a sports injury characterized by inflammation of the tendon that connects the biceps to the shoulder bones. Here are three things swimmers need to know about biceps tendinitis.
How does swimming lead to biceps tendinitis?
Biceps tendinitis is an overuse injury, which means that it develops in response to repetitive microtrauma. The muscles and tendons in your shoulders have to work very hard when you swim. Swimming places unique demands on your shoulders; while other sports only require two or three different shoulder movement patterns, swimming requires several. These movements push your shoulders to the limits of range-of-motion and strength.
In a single workout, competitive swimmers will perform at least 4000 strokes with each shoulder. When you're training most days of the week, you force your shoulders to put up with a lot of stress and strain. Without sufficient rest days, your shoulders aren't able to heal from the stress. Over time, the tendons become inflamed, leading to biceps tendinitis.
What are the signs of biceps tendinitis?
Biceps tendinitis develops gradually through overuse of the tendon. At first, you may mistake the pain and tenderness in the front of your shoulder for typical post-workout soreness and continue swimming. If you continue your workouts, your tendon will continue to be irritated and the inflammation will get worse.
You'll start to feel pain and stiffness in your shoulder, especially first thing in the morning. The pain may also bother you while you're trying to sleep. When you move your arm, you may hear a crunchy sound coming from your shoulder. The pain will get worse when you try to swim or do other athletic activities.
How is biceps tendinitis treated?
Resting your shoulder is essential for treating this injury. Ice the sore area and use non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to control both the inflammation and the pain. If this rest period goes on for too long, your shoulder will become stiff, so as soon as you're able, you'll need to go to physiotherapy.
At physiotherapy, you'll perform weighted stretch exercises to get rid of stiffness in your shoulder and restore your previous range-of-motion. These exercises are generally performed three times a week, though your doctor may recommend a different frequency based on your situation. If you don't feel better after six months of physiotherapy, surgical treatment can be performed.
If you're a competitive swimmer and think you have biceps tendinitis, see your family doctor (like those at Orange Beach Walk-In Medical Care and other offices) right away.