What Are Biceps Tendon Injuries?

Bicep tear

Biceps tendon injuries can take different forms depending on the cause of injury. This article will give you a better idea of how biceps tendon injuries can develop and what can be done about them. 

Causes of biceps tendon injuries

The bicep is the front muscle in the upper arm. Two tendons connect the bicep muscle to the scapula bone in the shoulder, and another tendon links the bicep to the elbow. Biceps tendon injuries can develop when these tendons suffer a severe strain, which can lead to inflammation, irritation, or even tears.

Two common biceps tendon injuries include

  • Bicep tendonitis: The cord-like tendon that connects the bicep muscle to the bone of the shoulder socket becomes inflamed or irritated from overuse or an acute injury that stretches the tendon beyond its natural capacity.
  • Bicep tendon tear: There is fraying or complete tear in the long head of the bicep tendon where it connects to the shoulder socket.

Common causes for biceps tendon injuries include either overuse or a sudden, acute injury that strains the tendons connected to the bicep. Athletes or people who are physically active are more likely to develop these injuries from repetitive stress on the tendons. They are also more likely to experience severe injuries that suddenly twist or strain the tendons of the bicep.

Bicep injury

Symptoms of biceps tendon injuries

Biceps tendon injuries typically share similar symptoms, including:

  •       Pain in the shoulder or upper arm that gets worse during activity
  •       Swelling near the shoulder
  •       Bruising on the shoulder
  •       Tender to touch
  •       Difficulty moving or lifting the injured arm
  •       Popping sound if tendon is ruptured

Since these injuries often overlap with other injuries to the arm or shoulder, you may experience additional symptoms depending on the location and severity of neighboring injuries. Those with biceps tendon injuries tend to also suffer from rotator cuff injuries, for example. 

Diagnosing biceps tendon injuries

A doctor will conduct a physical examination to identify the source of pain and inflammation. They will also collect information about your normal physical activity and any contributing injuries.

Additional imaging tests may help confirm the diagnosis. An MRI can produce more precise images of the soft tissue to allow better detection of tendon damage. X-rays may be used to evaluate the local bone structures to identify any additional injury to the shoulder bone or joint. 

Treating biceps tendon injuries

Treatment for biceps tendon injuries depends on the nature and severity of your individual injury.

For less severe injuries, the following conservative treatments are often recommended:

  •       Rest the injured arm; avoid strenuous activity
  •       Ice the injured arm to relieve inflammation
  •       Physical therapy exercises that stretch and strengthen the injured shoulder
  •       Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory pain relievers
  •       Steroid injections to relieve pain

In more extreme cases, surgery may be recommended to repair a torn bicep tendon.

Often, surgery will be performed arthroscopically, meaning the surgeon will make several small incisions to insert a camera that projects onto a screen in the operating room. They will then repair the damaged tendon with narrow instruments, guided by the projected image of the interior of the shoulder.

Two common procedures to repair ruptured bicep tendons include

  •       Biceps tenodesis: If only part of the tendon is damaged, the damaged portion is removed, and the remaining portion of the tendon is attached to the upper arm bone with a screw.
  •       Bicep tenotomy: In cases where the tendon is too badly damaged, the surgeon will cut the tendon, releasing its attachment to the upper arm bone so that it can heal on its own with a greater range of motion.

Biceps tendon injuries at Midwest Orthopaedic Consultants

At Midwest Orthopaedic Consultants, our specialists and surgeons are prepared to help you get back to doing what you love without pain from biceps tendon injuries dragging you down. We’re ready with a compassionate team of providers who are well-versed in a variety of innovative treatments to get you back in the game.

We know how frustrating it can be to suffer from bicep tendonitis or bicep tears. Contact us today to book an appointment!

Only a doctor can tell you if you have this ailment. This is for informational purposes and should not be used in lieu of a doctor’s opinion.