What are biceps problems?
The most common shoulder conditions affecting the biceps are injuries to the cartilage and tendons that attach the biceps muscle to the shoulder bones. These include SLAP lesions, tendonitis, and tendon rupture. Shoulder instability, a dislocation, or a rotator cuff tear could also cause damage to these tendons and cartilage.
A SLAP lesion is an injury to the upper part of a rim of cartilage called the labrum. The labrum runs around the top of the socket element of your shoulder’s ball and socket joint. The long head of biceps inserts into the labrum at an area called the anchor. Injuries to this area therefore affect the biceps.
SLAP is an acronym for Superior Labrum Anterior-Posterior (SLAP). There are a number of variations of injuries which constitute SLAP tears and there are 4 common varieties
Tendonitis is the painful inflammation of a tendon. It is normally caused by an injury, irritation or instability in the tendon. Pain is often felt in the upper part of the arm and around the front of the shoulder joint.
Biceps tendon rupture
The biceps muscle has two shoulder tendons; one that passes over the top of the shoulder (the long head of biceps tendon, or LHB) and one that passes to the front of the shoulder (the short head of biceps tendon, or SHB).
A biceps tendon may rupture (or break) at the shoulder or the elbow. In the shoulder, the LHB tendon may rupture causing the muscle to bunch up. This can give the bicep a ‘Popeye’ appearance.
Why do biceps problems happen?
SLAP lesions and tears are normally caused by trauma. It is most commonly seen in sportspeople as a throwing or lifting injury, or a rugby tackle. A shoulder dislocation can also damage the labrum and result in a SLAP lesion.
Biceps tendonitis is an inflammation of the long head of the biceps tendon (LHB). It can be caused by an injury, such as a fall or by lifting something that is too heavy. It can also be caused by the rubbing of bone spurs against the tendon. Instability of the tendon may also be caused by a rotator cuff tear, particularly at the front of the shoulder (the subcapularis tendon).
Biceps tendon rupture
The LHB can rupture in association with a rotator cuff tear. If you have been suffering from chronic shoulder pain, a tear of the LHB can result in significant pain relief as it is the rubbing of the partially torn tendon that is often the main cause of pain. Once it tears it stops rubbing and the pain may be relieved.
The LHB can rupture without a rotator cuff tear. This normally happens when you try to lift something that is too heavy.
How common are biceps problems?
SLAP lesions and tears mainly occur among athletes who take part in contact sports and those whose work involves overhead activities.
Tendon ruptures are common among more elderly people with rotator cuff tears. Ruptures without rotator cuff tears are most commonly seen in younger people such as weightlifters who may have attempted to lift a weight in the gym that was too heavy.