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Biceps Injury

A biceps tendon tear can happen at either the shoulder or the elbow. With a tendon tear at the shoulder, the result is loss of arm strength and pain (arm turn from palm down to palm up).

There are two classifications of biceps tendon tears: complete and partial.

What causes it?

Biceps injuries are generally the result of injury, such as heavy lifting or a fall, and overuse, where repetitive movements lead to frayed tendons.

Risk factors include:

  • Activities/occupations requiring heavy overhead lifting
  • Repetitive overhead sports (racquet sports, swimming)
  • Steroid use (linked to tendon weakness)
  • Advanced age

How do you know you have it?

Signs and symptoms of biceps injury are:

  • Sharp, sudden upper arm pain
  • A pop or snap
  • Cramping of the biceps muscle
  • Bruising
  • Shoulder and elbow weakness/tenderness
  • Difficulty rotating the arm
  • A bulge (due to the fact that the tendon is no longer holding the muscle in place)

How we fix it

Your OSI upper extremity specialist is here to listen, discuss your concerns, and examine you for signs and symptoms a biceps injury. Under our care, the use of the following will determine the best course of treatment:

  • Physical exam: Your doctor will ask for a complete medical history and have you describe symptoms, and then will proceed with your shoulder examination. A biceps tendon tear is often accompanied by other issues, such as rotator cuff injuries, impingement, or tendinitis. Additional tests can help identify these issues.
  • Imaging: An MRI will confirm the diagnosis of a biceps tear.

Nonsurgical Treatment

Pain from a biceps tendon tear often goes away, and the arm limitations/appearance may not bother some. If there is no damage to the rotator cuff or other critical structure, nonsurgical treatment approaches include:

  • Ice
  • Rest
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications
  • Physical therapy

Surgical Treatment

Surgery for biceps tendon tears is generally not needed although considered in situations where severe symptoms of cramping and/or pain persist, as well as for athletes and workers who require a return to full strength.

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