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Biceps Tendon Tear

What is a biceps tendon tear?

– The biceps muscles allow you to bend the elbow and pronate (rotate) the arm. A biceps tear occurs when there is a tear or break in the tendon that connects your biceps muscle in the upper arm to your shoulder or elbow
– The biceps muscle at the shoulder has two tendons; a long head and a short head. Then at the distal end (elbow end) there is one tendon which crosses the elbow
– Proximal biceps tendon tears can be partial or complete and most often associated with incomplete tears of the long head of biceps tendon
– A complete rupture will result in a “Popeye Deformity” where the bicep bunches up and bulges out like Popeye’s arms

What are the symptoms of a proximal biceps tear v symptoms of a distal biceps tendon tear?

– Both may have popping sounds at injury
– Pain, tenderness and weakness at the shoulder or elbow
– Trouble with lifting any weight when using the arm
– Bruising bulging above the elbow (proximal)
– Sharp and sudden upper arm pain (proximal) or at the front of the elbow (distal)

What is the treatment for a Proximal or Distal biceps tendon tear?

While you may be able to live with a Popeye deformity of a proximal biceps tendon tear, a distal biceps tendon tear needs prompt treatment as the distal biceps tendon can retract from the bone and surgical repair may not be possible if left for more than 4 weeks
– Permanent weakness can occur if the tendon is not repaired surgically and a deformed and high riding biceps muscle can cause you to lose more than half of your elbow strength
– For these reasons, surgical repair is most effective within the first two weeks of symptoms. There is about a 3 month recovery post surgery

TIP:  The main difference between a proximal and distal biceps tear is that a proximal biceps tendon rupture occurs at the shoulder joint, is most common in patients over 60 and often causes more minimal symptoms. Distal biceps tendon injuries are around the elbow joint, usually occur with heavy lifting or sport in middle-aged men. Many will have surgery for distal biceps rupture. It needs to be treated promptly.