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Biceps Tear

Biceps Tear

Biceps tear occurs when the muscles in the shoulder or elbow pull apart causing the inability of the forearm to rotate, pull or bend the elbow. A bicep tear can either be partial whereby the tendon is damaged, or completely detached away from the bone.

The bicep is the muscle located in the front upper arm and has two tendons that connect it to the bones of the elbow and shoulder. The tendons are connective tissues that attach muscles to the bones. There are three types of tendons that connect the bicep to the bone of the shoulder and elbow. These are:

  • The tendon which connects the bicep to the radius of the bone in the elbow
  • The long head tendon which connects the bicep to the top shoulder socket
  • The short head tendon that connects the bicep to the bump at the shoulder blade

Types of Biceps Tears

There are three ways in which a bicep can tear as a result of the tendon injury. These are:

Tendonitis of the shoulder

Tendonitis of the bicep occurs as a result of tedious motion and usual wear and tear together with conditions such as impingement, dislocation, and arthritis of the shoulder.

Proximal bicep tear at the shoulder

Proximal bicep tear affects one part of the tendon near the shoulder and can injure other parts of the shoulder when it’s not repaired. This occurs due to the tearing of the long head tendons that connect the bicep to the shoulder. This bicep tear is mostly caused by injury and fraying of the bone.

Distal bicep tendonitis and tear at the elbow

This is the soreness and tear in the bicep tendons that are near the elbow due to heavy weight bearing that pushes the elbow. The tear can pull the tendon completely from the bone, and the arm can lose its strength when repair is not done.

Symptoms of a Biceps Tear

The symptoms of a bicep tear are identified by the area and intensity of the tear. These include:

  • A popping and twitching feeling when the injury occurs
  • Soreness and bruising around the torn area
  • Severe pain in the arm
  • Weakness of the arm
  • A bump on the arm
  • Difficulty in motion

Causes of a Biceps Tear

The bicep can be torn at the shoulder or elbow as a result of:

  • Overuse of the bicep muscle due to the repetitive motions especially in sports like swimming and weightlifting among others.
  • Fraying or wear and tear as a result of aging
  • Injury by a fall or heavy weight causing a tear at the elbow
  • Corticosteroid medications and smoking can also cause a bicep tear

Diagnosis of a Biceps Tear

To diagnose a bicep tear, physical examination is done to identify the signs and symptoms of the tear and the reasons the arm is losing its function. An x-ray imaging test will also be done to check other conditions, and an ultrasound or MRI scan to check the extent of the injury of the muscles and tendons.

Treatment Options of a Biceps Tear

The treatment for bicep tear can be either surgical or non-surgical.

Surgery

The surgical option is considered immediately after a complete bicep tear is diagnosed whereby the non-surgical options are unable to repair the damage. The surgery is done to reattach the torn tendon back to the bone and avoid scaring of the muscle and distal tendon (near the elbow).

The surgical procedures include:

Acromioplasty and direct tenodesis: During this procedure a small front portion of the acromion (bone formed at the scapula of the shoulder joint) is removed to create space between the humeral head and acromion. This is performed on younger individuals who have had a shoulder injury.

Bicep tenodesis repairs the tendon that does not regenerate due to injury. The damaged ends of the bicep tendon are fixed and sutured to the bone with screws.

The complete healing process including physical therapy can take roughly three months before the patient can regain the range of motion.

Non-surgical treatment options

When there is partial tearing of the tendon the non-surgical treatment options are considered. These include:

Physical therapy: A designed therapy to help regain the range of motion and strength is performed for a given period of time depending on the intensity of the tear. The exercises include arm rotation, bicep curls, and extension of the arm among others.

Physical therapy is done with the aim of relieving pain and enhancing the healing process.

Medication: Oral medications such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are prescribed to relieve pain and reduce the inflammation that occurs from the bicep tendon damage. Platelet rich plasma (PRP) can also be injected into the injured shoulder to aid the healing process.

Rest: To reduce the level of damage caused by the bicep tear, rest from any physical activities that cause the over use of the arm is recommended.

Possible Complications After Surgery

Just like any other surgical procedure, there may be risks involved. These include:

  • Weakness of the arm
  • Numbness in the operated area
  • Reoccurrence of the tear

Biceps Tear Recovery

Identifying the cause of the bicep tear and the outcome after the treatment is important as it enables one to have an effective recovery. The healing process of a partial tear can take an average of six months while a complete tear can take nine months. All these depend on the health, age of the patient and intensity of the damage.

Next Step

Our board-certified orthopedic surgeons at King’s have extensive knowledge of the full range of shoulder disorders and will help you find the ideal medical solution for your condition. You can get in touch by filling in the form below.

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