Which clinical history findings are characteristic of bicipital tendonitis?

Updated: Nov 21, 2018
  • Author: Britt A Durham, MD; Chief Editor: Sherwin SW Ho, MD  more...
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  • Patients typically complain of achy anterior shoulder pain, which is exacerbated by lifting or elevated pushing or pulling. A typical complaint is pain with overhead activity or with lifting heavy objects.

  • Pain may be localized in a vertical line along the anterior humerus, which worsens with movement. Often, however, the location of the pain is vague, and symptoms may improve with rest.

  • Most patients with bicipital tendinitis have not sustained an acute traumatic injury. However, partial traumatic biceps tendon ruptures have been described and may occur in combination with underlying tendinitis. Individuals with rupture of the long head of the biceps tendon may report a sudden and painful popping sensation. The retracted muscle belly bulges over the anterior upper arm, which is commonly described as the "Popeye" deformity. In patients without acute traumatic injuries, the biceps tendon rupture is usually preceded by a history of shoulder pain that quickly resolves after a painful audible snap occurs.

  • Occasionally, shoulder instability and subluxation can be associated with biceps degeneration from chronic tendinitis, resulting in a palpable snap in a painful arc of motion that is seen in throwing athletes. Superior labral tears (superior labrum anterior and posterior [SLAP] lesions) may have similar findings, but these injuries are more prone to locking or catching symptoms. [12]

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