Biceps Tendon Tears

The biceps are found on the inner sides of your upper arms, and are the muscles that people often flex with upturned arms. Three tendons link the biceps muscle to the nearby bone, with two attachments on the upper part of the muscle close to the shoulder joint and the distal attachment found near to the elbow. The tendons at the head of the biceps affect shoulder motions, while the latter tendon is used for bending and flexing at the elbow joint.

Symptoms of Biceps Tendon Tear

The symptoms can vary from case to case depending on the location and intensity of the injury. Often a 'popping' sound may be heard when the injury strikes, followed by pain around the shoulders or arms. The pain might come and go, and it is not often extreme, but it is likely to increase with physical activity. If the tear occurs at the 'long head' (the proximal biceps tendon) in the upper biceps, the shoulders can become noticeably sore. Distal tendon tears are regularly characterised by a bulging lump or bump in the upper arm, due to the chaotic loosening and contracting caused by the tear. Any of these symptoms should be taken seriously and reported to a qualified doctor.

Causes of Biceps Tendon Tear

Biceps tendon tears are generally caused over a long period of time due to progressive degeneration in the tendon. For this reason the injury often arises in athletes over the age of 40, though this is by no means assured and many younger people sustain a biceps tendon tear. When the tendon wears down over time, this is mostly caused by repetitive stress to the area. This can occur because an athlete continually participates in an activity that requires repeated movements, and the degenerative process can also be worsened with overuse practices such as exercising for too long or without sufficient stretching. In younger athletes a tear can be caused by a single incident in which great pressure is applied to the tendon, such as in football, rugby, weightlifting or snowboarding.

Treatment for Biceps Tendon Tear

Consult a doctor so that they can recommend appropriate treatment based on the particular tear. Conservative treatment is common for tears at the upper end of the biceps, partly because there are two upper tendon attachments and therefore loss does not lead to a reduction in arm movement. Treatment in this case focuses on rest and staying away from stressful activity while the tendon heals. Pain medication and icing the area can help to combat pain and swelling. However, younger sufferers might require surgery if they are very active.

Distal tendon tears are more likely to necessitate surgery because there is one attachment at the lower end of the biceps, meaning greater potential damage and loss of functionality in the shoulders or arms.

Rehabilitation of Biceps Tendon Tear

Recovery can involve a gradual period of physical therapy to help rejuvenate the rested muscles and tendons both in movement and strength. This program of stretching and strengthening ensures that you are healthier and far less prone to repeat the injury when you make a full return to physical activity.

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