Located at the front of your upper arm, the biceps muscle is attached to bones of the elbow and shoulder by tendons. Following a biceps tear it is possible to bend the elbow reasonably well, but your elbow will not be able to complete certain actions, such as turning a door knob or screwdriver.
What causes it?
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 it?
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 we fix it
The OSI upper extremity team is here to listen, discuss your concerns, and examine you for signs and symptoms of biceps injury. The doctor will test the rotational strength of your forearm, comparing that to the uninjured forearm. While you’re under our expert care, the following imaging tests may be recommended to confirm the diagnosis:
- 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.
To regain full elbow function and arm strength, tendon surgery is necessary; however, a number of factors bring nonsurgical treatments into play: 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. Treatment options include:
- Heavy lifting and overhead activities are to be avoided. Additionally, a sling may be provided.
- Anti-inflammatory medications. Use of NSAIDs such as ibuprofen for pain and swelling.
- Physical therapy. To strengthen the arm, rehabilitation exercises may be recommended to restore movement and function.
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, which may include the use of metal implants to anchor the sutures:
- Single incision (front of elbow)
- Two incisions (front and back of elbow)
A cast or splint will likely be utilized following your surgery.