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Recovering from Biceps Tenodesis

Biceps tenodesis is surgical repair of symptomatic biceps tendon tears caused by injury or overuse. The damaged tendon is removed from its attachment site on the shoulder labrum and reattached to the upper arm bone (humerus) further down. The new attachment site may be inside the bone or on the outside of the bone, depending on the surgeon’s preference. Biceps tenodesis is the preferred procedure for most tears of the biceps and/or superior labrum including elite athletes and overhead laborers. The surgery may be performed as an open procedure or as an arthroscopic procedure, both are effective but have pros and cons.

Recovering from biceps tenodesis surgery involves a combination of rest, physical therapy, and gradually returning to normal activities. The length of recovery varies based on the type of surgical approach but generally recovery takes 3-4 months. 

General recovery guidelines

After the surgery, your arm will be in a sling to limit movement and promote healing for the first few weeks. Follow your surgeon’s instructions regarding how long you should keep the arm immobilized.  Dr. Patel will prescribe pain medication and anti-inflammatory drugs. Applying ice packs to the shoulder can help reduce swelling and pain. After a period of immobilization, Dr. Patel will recommend beginning physical therapy. Your therapist will guide your shoulder through gentle passive movements to prevent stiffness.

During this time, you will begin formal physical therapy to gradually regain active range of motion and strength. Therapeutic exercises will focus on maintaining and improving shoulder flexibility, and begin exercises to strengthen the shoulder muscles, which will gradually progress in intensity. Your therapist may use modalities like ultrasound or electrical stimulation to aid in pain relief and tissue healing.

You will continue with physical therapy, focusing on more challenging exercises and functional activities. Functional exercises that mimic everyday activities, will gradually be introduced, and increase in load and complexity. Resistance training will be incorporated using resistance bands, dumbbells, or other equipment to further strengthen the shoulder. If you participate in sports, you will work with your therapist to transition to sport-specific exercises and drills.

With Dr. Patel’s approval, you can gradually return to normal activities, including sports and recreational activities. talk to Dr. Patel about when you can resume driving and begin exercising, lifting weights, or playing sports.

You should continue to monitor your shoulder for any discomfort or signs of overuse. It is important to maintain a regular exercise routine to prevent muscle imbalances and maintain shoulder health.

Throughout your recovery, it’s crucial to follow Dr. Patel’s and your therapist’s instructions carefully. Overdoing it or pushing too hard too soon can lead to setbacks. Communicate any concerns or unusual symptoms to your medical team.

Remember that recovery timelines can vary based on individual factors such as the extent of the surgery, your overall health, and your dedication to rehabilitation. Be patient and consistent in your efforts, and don’t hesitate to ask questions if you’re unsure about any aspect of your recovery process.

Schedule a shoulder consultation

Dr. Ronak Patel is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon who specializes in sports medicine for adolescents and adults. He completed his sports medicine fellowship training at the renowned Cleveland Clinic learning the most advanced and innovative surgical procedures, tending to professional athletes and most importantly, helping his patients return to full function without pain. He is also extensively trained and skilled in arthroscopy for shoulder conditions. Contact him to schedule a consultation at one of his offices in Hinsdale, Illinois or at his offices in Westmont, Elmhurst, and Munster, Indiana.

At a Glance

Ronak M. Patel M.D.

  • Double Board-Certified, Fellowship-Trained Orthopaedic Surgeon
  • Past Team Physician to the Cavaliers (NBA), Browns (NFL) and Guardians (MLB)
  • Published over 49 publications and 10 book chapters
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