Symptoms of a Biceps Rupture
Symptoms associated with a bicep rupture include sudden, sharp upper arm pain—sometimes with a noticeable snap or popping sound. Cramping, bruising, swelling, pain, and tenderness of the shoulder, biceps and elbow are common. In addition, it will most likely be difficult to turn the palm from up to down (supinate-pronate).
Diagnosis of a Biceps Tear
Dr. Millett will perform a comprehensive physical exam that includes assessing range of motion, strength, and tenderness. If the tear is suspected in the elbow, Dr. Millett will ask you to rotator your forearm against resistance and compare the strength of this maneuver with the opposite side. Additionally, X-ray, Ultrasound, or MRI may be ordered.
Treatment for a Biceps Tendon Tear
It is important to note that the biceps have two attachments at the shoulder: a long head and a short head. These heads will affect the injury and treatment differently. The long head is the part that is more likely to be injured considering the short head rarely tears. Due to the short head biceps attachment, many people can still function and use their biceps even if the long head is damaged. In cases where only the long head is damaged and majority of biceps function is preserved, usually symptoms can be treated without surgery.
Treating a torn biceps tendon non-surgically will include resting the arm that is injured and avoiding any heavy lifting or the activity that may have caused the injury (i.e. weight training). Applying cold packs and ice will help with swelling and overall pain. You can also take anti-inflammatory medications and non-steroid drugs for pain relief. Dr. Millett will recommend at-home physical therapy exercises you can do in order to help with flexibility and strength.
If an acute rupture occurs, surgery should be performed within a few weeks after injury to prevent scarring and shortening of the muscle. Several new bicep tendon tear procedures are available to repair the injured tendon with minimal incisions using arthroscopic surgery. The goal of the surgery is to re-anchor the torn tendon back to the bone. Each case will vary slightly and the majority have a good prognosis.
For additional details on a bicep rupture, or to determine the appropriate bicep tendon tear treatment, please contact the practice of Dr. Peter Millett.