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Biceps Injury

Located at the front of your upper arm, the biceps muscle is attached to the bones of the elbow and shoulder by tendons. Following a biceps tear, you may still be able to bend the elbow reasonably well, but your elbow will not be usable to perform certain actions, such as turning a door knob or screwdriver.

What causes a Bicep Injury?

Biceps tendon tears at the elbow often occur after a sudden, forceful movement such as quickly lifting a heavy object.

How do you know you have a Bicep Injury?

When the biceps tendon ruptures, you’ll often hear a “pop.” Symptoms include:

  • Severe pain initially, which may lessen in the weeks following
  • Elbow and forearm bruising
  • Swelling, especially at the front of the elbow
  • Weakness when bending the elbow or twisting the forearm
  • A development of a gap at the front of the elbow (due to the absence of the tendon)

How does OSI fix a Bicep Injury?

Your board-certified OSI upper extremity specialist will listen to you as you explain your symptoms, discuss your concerns, and examine you for signs and symptoms of a bicep injury. The doctor will test the rotational strength of your forearm, comparing that to the uninjured forearm. Your OSI doctor may also recommend the the following to confirm the diagnosis:

  • Physical exam: Your OSI doctor will examine your arm by moving it in various ways to test its strength and mobility
  • X-rays: An X-ray can rule out other issues that could be contributing to your elbow pain
  • MRI: An MRI will be able to show tears of the biceps tendon, both partial and complete 

Nonsurgical Treatment

To regain full elbow function and arm strength, tendon surgery is necessary. However, a number of factors bring nonsurgical treatments into play, like if you are able to tolerate the lack of full arm function (injury occurred in your nondominant arm), or if you are older and less active. If you choose nonsurgical treatment, those options include:

  • Rest. Heavy lifting and overhead activities are to be avoided. 
  • Anti-inflammatory medications. Use of NSAIDs such as ibuprofen for pain and swelling.
  • Physical therapy. To strengthen the arm, your OSI doctor may recommend physical therapy, which you can do right at OSI, to restore elbow movement and function.
  • A sling may be provided to support the elbow.

Surgical Treatment

It is recommended that surgery be performed in the initial 2- to 3-week period following injury. There are different procedures available for tendon reattachment. One includes the use of metal implants to anchor the sutures. The other includes either a single incision (front of elbow) or two incisions (front and back of elbow). You will likely need a cast or splint following your surgery.