The main role of the tendon of the bicep is to attach the bicep muscle to the shoulder and elbow of the arm and to allow for extension and rotation of the limb.
When this tendon ruptures, a sudden popping noise is heard which is followed by a sudden sharp pain and swelling over the affected area.
A tear in the bicep tendon can occur in two ways:
- Most of the tears (up to 90 percent of cases) occur at the shoulder where the tendon tears away from its implantation site.
- In less than 10 percent of cases, the bicep tendon can tear at the elbow.
Both of these injuries can occur as partial or complete tears and the way they are treated will depend on the severity of the damage to the tissue.
There are three main causes for the development of a bicep tendon tear and they include:
Repetitive strain on the tissue
- Repetitive motions involving the bicep tendon can lead to progressive fraying of the tissue which may end up tearing as a result.
- The repetitive motions result in small microtraumas developing in the tendon which causes it to weaken and eventually tear.
- The risk of injury increases with physical activities involving repetitive overhead motions, pushing and pulling movements, and excessive lifting.
- Occupations, where bicep tendon tears may occur, include those that involve physical labor.
- The older one gets, the more the body is involved in wear-and-tear.
- Tendons grow weaker and stiffer making the chances of rupturing the bicep tendon all the more likely.
- This type of injury occurs most commonly in men over the age of 30.
Specific weightlifting techniques such as deadlifts and curls can increase the risk of a bicep tendon tear, especially if they are not performed correctly.
Excessive weight and physical overexertion when performing sets of curls is the most common cause of bicep tendon tears.
Biceps Tendon Rupture Treatment
Bicep tendon ruptures can be managed conservatively together with physical rehabilitation and include the following measures:
- Resting the affected limb during the acute stage of the injury.
- Cold packs, hydrotherapy, and ice massages can be incorporated as cold modalities to help reduce swelling.
- Inflammation can be managed with the use of anti-inflammatory agents such as ibuprofen or naproxen.
If conservative measures are ineffective, or if the injury is severe enough, surgical intervention may be considered to manage the ruptured bicep tendon. The injured tendon can be repaired through key-hole surgery (arthroscopy) where slender instruments and a camera are inserted through small incisions in the skin to perform the procedure.
Physical rehabilitation is then performed after surgery to improve the range of motion of the patient and this can last for six to eight weeks. The therapy involves passive and active stretching as well as muscle strengthening exercises.
When deciding on the best therapy for a patient with a ruptured bicep tendon, it is always important to consider the individual needs and circumstances of the individual together with the severity of the injury.