Bicep Tendonitis-Why does it affect so many CrossFitters?

Biceps Tendonitis is a common complaint among CrossFitters.  The root of biceps tendonitis is that it is an overuse injury where the biceps tendon becomes irritated, inflamed or swollen.  Why is this so common place in our demanding world of CrossFit you ask?  Well, the simple answer is that we use are shoulders for almost all of the movements in CrossFit; e.g.  push-press, rowing, pull-ups, toes to bar, etc.  The nature of our movements has us going overhead more often than not and because of this and the demanding nature of our sport, the front shoulder area where the biceps tendon is located receives the brunt of our punishing work and becomes irritated.  Add to that poor positioning from being desk jockeys and text monsters and we end up with impingements which turn into inflammation and voila; biceps tendonitis rears its ugly head.  If you have ever suffered any type of labral tear, rotator cuff injury, your bicep tendonitis experience will only be amplified.


Here are some signs that you may be experiencing biceps tendonitis:

•pain in the front or side of the shoulder and the upper arm
•pain in the arm at night, especially when you sleep on that side
•pain when you move your arm, raise it above your head, or reach behind you
•shoulder weakness and stiffness
•loss of some motion in the arm


For the anatomy geeks among us, me included, please see the following shoulder cutouts that depict exactly where our problem area is and some of the more anatomically  correct reference terms.

Screen Shot 2014-03-24 at 9.25.52 PM

What are we to do when we want to string kipping pull-ups but every time we do, we can’t lift our arms above our heads?

None of these are overnight fixes, but just like our fitness goals, incremental improvements end up with exponential results.


Here Goes….

1)Reduce inflammation – this includes taking additional fish oil, applying ice/biofreeze to the shoulder post workout.  Also included but not a recommended first step is take an NSAID (see 7 below)
2)Drink more water – dehydration of the surrounding tissues makes it difficult for the body to perform its own rehabilitative work.
3)Take a Day or Two Off – Rest and recovery can be your best ally in the fight against inflammation and pain.
4)Work on Impingements – use a lacrosse ball, roller, or get some massage therapy.  Graston Technique, AYSTM or other manual manipulation techniques will help clean up any impingements.
5)Cleaning up Posture – Sit Upright, pull those shoulders back and tighten up your midsection.  Do not allow your shoulders to roll forward while typing, texting and yes driving – No more G-Riding.
6)Pre-Hab – Rotator Cuff work with bands, dumbbells, strict pull-ups, chin-ups, ring rows, muscle-ups.  Work on that solid mid-line stable position over head.
7)Take an NSAID (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory) – I am not a doctor – take at your own risk.  These drugs reduce inflammation by reducing the amount of prostaglandins (pain/inflammation chemicals) present at the pain/inflammation site.
8)If none of the above treatments improve your situation, seek out the care of a licensed professional.
1)Denise  Smith – Accelerated Rehabilitation Center in Barrington – 847.908.0372
2)Dr. David Crosson – ChiroFit Barrington – 847.382.3194
3)Dr. Michael Gitelis, Dr. Joshua M. Alpert, Dr. James R. Seeds – Midwest Bone and Joint Institute Barrington – 847.931.5300

So my CrossFit friends and family, if you are ailing from biceps tendonitis, not to worry; there are a multitude of ways to fix it.  Patience and diligence will pay off in the long run.


Stay Strong, Stay Focused; be Better than you were Yesterday!

Coach Chris Bluse


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