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What Is a Bicep Tear?

The upper arm has a ball shaped bone which fits into the round socket of the shoulder blade. Muscles and tendons called the rotator cuff keep this bone in place. At the upper end of the bicep are two tendons that attach the muscle to the shoulder; there are two heads to this tendon, one is a short tendon and the other is long. The long head of the biceps tendon is most likely to suffer injury, as it is most vulnerable. Because the bicep has the two tendons, if the long one tears, many people choose to not repair it. However, damage to other parts of the shoulder can occur when a bicep tendon tears.

man in pain after working out

Bicep Tear Causes and Risk Factors

Bicep tears can happen when swimming, playing sports like tennis, or when lifting heavy objects on the job. The reason age is a factor is that the bicep in an older person has had more years of wear as opposed to someone who is younger.

  • Injury, like falling hard on an outstretched arm
  • Heavy overhead motions such as weightlifting
  • The probability of developing this condition increases with age
  • Smoking can cause loss of nutrients in the tendon
  • Corticosteroids, which have been shown to weaken tendons and muscles

Symptoms of Bicep Tear

Signs and symptoms of a Bicep Tear can include:

  • A sharp pain in the upper arm which comes on suddenly
  • Hearing a pop in the bicep
  • Severe cramps when using the arm or exercising
  • Bruises along the upper arm and elbow
  • Pain, sensitivity and weakness of the shoulder and elbow
  • Cramping of the bicep muscle with strenuous use of the arm
  • Bruising from the middle of the upper arm down toward the elbow
  • An inability to turn the arm palm up or palm down
  • A visible bulge in the upper arm, with a depression nearer to the shoulder

When Surgery Is Necessary

A bicep tear may or may not require surgery, however, it may cause a deformed appearance of the upper arm. Rest, Ice, Physical Therapy and Non-Steroid Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) are often chosen as treatment. If pain is not alleviated, performance suffers or if the appearance of the bicep is undesired, surgical options can be considered.

Symptoms of a bicep tear should be evaluated by a doctor. Symptoms can include pain or visible signs of separation of the bicep from the tendon. Contact Dr. Madsen at Madsen Orthopedics for a diagnosis and treatment of a Bicep Tear.

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