Long head of the biceps tendon pain: differential diagnosis and treatment

J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2009 Feb;39(2):55-70. doi: 10.2519/jospt.2009.2802.


Though the role of the long head of the biceps tendon (LHBT) in shoulder pathology has been extensively investigated, it remains controversial. Historically, there have been large shifts in opinions on LHBT function, ranging from being a vestigial structure to playing a critical role in shoulder stability. Today, despite incomplete understanding of its clinical or biomechanical involvement, most investigators would agree that LHBT pathology can be a significant cause of anterior shoulder pain. When the biceps tendon is determined to be a significant contributor to a patient's symptoms, the treatment options include various conservative interventions and possible surgical procedures, such as tenotomy, transfer, or tenodesis. The ultimate treatment decision is based upon a variety of factors, including the patient's overall medical condition, severity, and duration of symptoms, expectations, associated shoulder pathology, and surgeon preference. The purpose of this manuscript is to review current anatomic, functional, and clinical information regarding the LHBT, including conservative treatment, surgical treatment, and postsurgical rehabilitation regimens.

Level of evidence: Level 5.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Humans
  • Muscular Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Muscular Diseases / therapy*
  • Orthopedic Procedures / methods*
  • Shoulder Pain / diagnosis*
  • Shoulder Pain / therapy*
  • Tendons