If you’re experiencing pain in your upper arm after a recent injury to that region, you may have a bicep tear. Also referred to as a strained bicep, this type of injury is relatively common. The term typically refers to the tearing of the bicep tendon, which is fibrous tissue that attaches bicep muscle to the shoulder or elbow bones.
When the tendon fully detaches from the bone, the tear or rupture occurs. The information below describes what to do if you believe that you’ve torn your bicep.
Discovering the Bicep Tear in your Body
The bicep muscle is located in the front, upper section of the arm. It starts as two separate pieces, which is why it’s called a “bicep.” The two muscle pieces merge into one midway down the arm to be attached to the elbow by a tendon.
Two bicep tendons connect the bicep muscle to the bones in the shoulder blade. It is most common for the longer of the two tendons to be damaged. When a tear occurs, the individual can retain usage of the arm because the shorter tendon is rarely injured.
There is also a tendon that connects the bicep muscle to the elbow. While it is possible to tear this lower bicep tendon, occurrences are rare. As an athlete, one experiences this with lower back pain and knee sprain.
How Does Bicep Tear Happen?
Bicep tears can occur during strenuous activities, such as during a weightlifting exercise. Athletes who participate in sports. Specifically, football, gymnastics, skiing, boxing, wrestling or tennis can also be at a higher risk for injury. Workers who do repetitive heavy lifting are subject to a biceps tear.
The older the athlete, the more susceptible he or she is too damaging the tendons or muscles. Tears and ruptures can also occur any time a person’s arm and shoulder are subject to a substantial amount of blunt force. Particularly, attempting to lift a heavier-than-normal item or falling onto the arm and shoulder.
Bicep Tear Injury Risk Factors
Alternatively, the bicep can fray over time due to repetitive usage. Hence, with a tear occurring during an event that traumatizes the region.
After injuring the bicep, the individual is often more prone to subsequent injuries. Your concern about Achilles Tendon comes related to this discussion.
The risk of bicep tendon injuries increases due to several factors.
High-risk Bicep Tear Category
As you are assessing whether a bicep injury has occurred, consider whether you are in a high-risk category:
- Individuals who are 40 years of age or older are at higher risk of bicep tears and other injuries. This may simply be due to years of wear and tear on the body. Tears are more common for men than women.
- Individuals whose jobs or lifestyle choices require them to perform overhead lifting of heavy objects. Also, done on a regular basis since it remains more prone to injury.
- Repetitive usage of the muscles and tendons caused by activities such as swimming, tennis or volleyball can cause the body to wear down more quickly.
- Heavy and regular nicotine usage has been known to adversely affect the body’s nutrition, including tendons and muscles.
- Some studies have linked the use of corticosteroid medicines to an increase in tendon and muscle weakness.
- Certain types of heavy lifting exercises can put you at more risk of injury. Make sure you are performing the lifts using the appropriate techniques to avoid damage to your biceps. Continuing to perform heavy lifts while muscles are fatigued can also increase the risk of injury.
Bicep Tear Symptoms
You may need a doctor’s or physical therapist’s evaluation to determine whether you have suffered a bicep tear. Experiencing one or more of these symptoms after suffering an arm or shoulder injury may indicate a full or partial bicep tear:
- Tenderness or ongoing pain around the shoulder or elbow region, especially when using the bicep muscle
- Bruising on the middle, upper arm between the elbow and the shoulder
- Unexplained loss of strength when using the bicep muscle
- Difficulty bending the elbow or turning the arm from a palm-up to palm-down position, and vice versa
- Occurrences of muscle spasms in the upper arm area
More Bicep Tear symptoms
- A bulge in the bicep area that did not previously exist. Possibly, in combination with a dent close to the shoulder
- Audible popping or snapping sounds when moving the arm due to the tendon slipping in and out of its groove
- Sudden, sharp pain when moving the arm in specific directions
- Cramping of the bicep muscle during periods of strenuous arm usage
- For tears of the lower tendon, a gap may form at the front of the elbow
When diagnosing bicep tear injuries, doctors may also look for symptoms that point to rotator cuff damage. Particularly, tendinitis or impingement conditions that frequently accompany bicep issues.
X-rays can help to rule out other problems. Even more, while magnetic resonance imaging, often referred to as an MRI. Also, this provides the doctor with scans of the soft tissues that show both complete and partial tears.
Bicep Tear Treatments
Primarily, bicep tear may heal on their own. Also, this depends on the type or severity of the damage and whether additional injuries occurred. Moreover, in conjunction with the tear, such as damage to the rotator cuff.
Tendon and muscle tears are typically slow to heal when left to do so with no formal treatment. Partial tears, meaning that the tendon connecting the muscle and bone is not completely severed. Also, this often heals in one to two months.
Non-invasive Bicep Tear Treatments and Actions Taken
This helps to speed up the healing process include:
- Avoiding activities that trigger pain to allow for the swelling and trauma to subside and healing to commence
- For the first 48-72 hours after the injury. Apply the ice to the inflamed area periodically for 20-minute sessions several times per day. This help keeps swelling to a minimum.
- After the first 48-72 hours, applying moist heat for 15-20 minutes at a time, 3-4 times per day. Certainly, this helps to relieve pain
- Taking anti-inflammatory medications that do not contain steroids, such as aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen or naproxen can help control pain and swelling.
- Following a physical therapy routine prescribed by a licensed therapist can help to restore strength, mobility, and flexibility
- Resting and limiting muscle usage. combined with avoiding overhead lifting or strenuous activities that use the bicep muscles. These give your body the time it needs to recover
- Wearing a sling to restrict movement while healing
- During cold weather, allowing for extra time to warm up your muscles if you are lifting or playing sports
- Avoiding an increase in the frequency, duration, and intensity of exercise while the injured bicep is healing
- Consulting with a certified strength and conditioning coach for guidance regarding your exercise routine
- Avoiding steroid usage, as steroids can weaken muscles and tendons
- Avoiding smoking, as the carbon monoxide introduced into the body leaves less oxygen for muscles to heal
Surgical Bicep Tear Treatments
Once the attempt fails since the pain and other symptoms persist after non-surgical treatments. Also, if you see a visual change to the structure of your arms such as a bump or dent. Then, surgery may be required to fix the condition.
A doctor’s consultation may be necessary to determine the best course of action. Full tears, meaning that the tendon splits into two pieces. This requires surgery to re-anchor the tendon to the bone. And, followed by four to six months for a full recovery to regain strength and range of motion.
When disconnected from the bone, tendons cannot reattach onto the bone without intervention. Therapeutic exercises under professional supervision typically follow surgery to improve flexibility and strengthen the shoulder. It is very rare to re-tear the surgically repaired tendon.
Doctors may also prescribe treatment using platelet-rich plasma (PRP) in combination with surgery. PRP and adult stem cell therapy can speed the healing of the tendon. Certainly, muscle injuries when concentrated growth factors are injected directly into the site of the damage to stimulate soft tissue repairs.
Related Bicep Tear Injuries
It is often best to rely on a doctor’s assessment of your injury. Particularly, when the symptoms don’t subside in a reasonable amount of time. You may be experiencing multiple issues, or you may have a condition that requires other types of treatment.
In addition to bicep tears, other bicep-related injuries and conditions can cause pain and many similar symptoms. Medical conditions such as bursitis, impingement or arthritis may be misdiagnosed as a bicep tear. Tendonitis is another chronic condition that has similar symptoms.
It typically occurs due to repetitive motion and strain on the tendon, causing inflammation and pain. Baseball players, golfers, swimmers, and others who regularly perform the same arm motions are at risk of tendonitis.
A sudden trauma or injury can also trigger the condition. Bicep tendonitis can occur in the elbow or shoulder. Although, it is unusual to experience the problem in both places at the same time.
What To Do If You Suspect a Bicep Tear
Many people who suffer a bicep tear continue to function while managing the pain as the muscle and tendon heal. Partial tears can heal without surgery. On the other hand, a ruptured tendon must be surgically reattached to the bone for healing to occur.
Ultimately, symptoms do not disappear over time. Or, if the individual needs to regain full range of motion and strength. Thus, professional care under the guidance of both doctors and physical therapists may be needed to fully recover from the injury.