Biceps Tendon Tear

Biceps Tendon Tear At The Shoulder

Your biceps tendons attach the muscles in your shoulder and elbow to their corresponding bones. Tearing these tendons could result in a loss of strength in your arm, as well as pain when turning the arm quickly from palm down to palm up.

The majority of people can recover from a biceps tendon tear in the shoulder with simple home remedies. 

Biceps tendon tears can be either partial or complete. In a partial tear, the tendon is only partially severed. In a complete tear, the tendon will break into two pieces.

Biceps Tendon Tear Anatomy

The shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint that is made up of three bones: the humerus in the upper arm, the shoulder blade, which is called the scapula, and the clavicle, also known as the collarbone. 

The head of the humerus, the bone in the upper arm, fits into a rounded socket in the shoulder blade. There is a team of muscles and tendons dedicated to keeping this bone centered in its socket. Two of these tendons attach the bicep muscle to the shoulder.

Biceps Tendon Tear Causes

The two main causes of a biceps tendon tear are injury and overuse.

Injury can result in a biceps tendon tear if you fall hard on your outstretched arm, or if you lift something that is too heavy. The sudden strain placed on the muscle will tear the tendon.

Many biceps tendon tears are a result of overuse after a tendon has been worn down and frayed over time. Repeating the same shoulder movements over and over again can result in a biceps tendon tear.

Overuse can cause a variety of shoulder problems, such as tendinitis and rotator cuff injuries. These types of injuries place more strain on the biceps tendon and make tears more likely to occur.

Biceps Tendon Tear Symptoms

The most common biceps tendon tear symptoms are:

  • Sudden, sharp pain in the upper arm
  • An audible pop or snap, though this is not always the case.
  • Cramping biceps
  • Bruising from the middle of the upper arm down towards the elbow
  • Pain or tenderness at the shoulder and the elbow
  • Weakness in the shoulder and the elbow
  • Difficulty turning the palm up or down, or difficulty transitioning from one to the other
  • A bulge may appear above the elbow, due to the torn tendon no longer holding the biceps muscle down tight. This is called a Popeye Muscle.

Biceps Tendon Tear Diagnosis

Your doctor will discuss your medical history and symptoms with you, and examine your shoulder. For complete ruptures, the diagnosis is often relatively simple, due to the Popeye Muscle effect. 

Partial ruptures are unfortunately not as obvious. Your doctor may need to examine your arm and shoulder while you are bending the arm. In some cases, imaging scans like X-rays and MRIs can be useful in ruling out other problems.

Biceps Tendon Tear Treatment

Treatment can be either surgical or nonsurgical, depending on the severity of the injury. 

Nonsurgical treatment is the preferred treatment for the majority of biceps tendon tears. Nonsurgical treatments will most likely include:

  • Ice. Ice packs can be applied for 20 minutes at a time, several times a day. This will help control swelling.
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications. Drugs like ibuprofen, aspirin, or naproxen will help you manage pain while the tear heals.
  • Rest. Be sure to avoid any heavy lifting or a repeat of the activity that caused the tear in the first place. Your doctor may or may not recommend the use of a sling for a short time.
  • Physical therapy. Flexibility and strengthening exercises will restore movement and strengthen the shoulder.

Surgical treatment of a biceps tendon tear may be the right choice if your biceps tendon tear causes intense cramping and pain, or if you require complete recovery of strength. This could be the case for physical laborers or athletes. 

The procedure to heal a biceps tendon tear through surgery will depend on your surgeon. The goal of all biceps tendon repair surgeries is to reattach the torn tendon to the bone. The success rate for these surgeries is very high.

Biceps Tendon Tear Recovery

Recovery from a biceps tendon tear can take anywhere from a few days or weeks to a few months, depending on your doctor’s method of treatment and the original severity of the injury. Following your established treatment plan is the fastest way to regain complete use of your arm.

At SPORT, we will identify the source of your pain and then utilize state-of-the-art therapeutic techniques that focus on restoring your range of motion.

Depending on the specific condition and its severity, these treatment options may include physical therapy, over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication, slings and supports, cortisone shots, or shoulder or elbow surgery.

If you have an acute or chronic shoulder or elbow injury that needs medical attention, call SPORT at (469) 200-28322 to arrange a consultation or you can request one online. Hurt today? We can arrange a same-day urgent care visit to ensure you get fast, effective relief.

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