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The tendon that attaches your bicep muscle to your shoulder or elbow can tear, either partially or completely. When the tendon tears away from the bone at either the shoulder or elbow, this painful rupture can cause a number of concerns. While the tendon is strong and built for pressure and duress, it can be damaged in various ways, especially for those who live an active lifestyle.

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Common Causes of a Biceps Tendon Rupture

A biceps tendon rupture at the elbow or shoulder can be caused by taking the impact of a fall on an outstretched arm, twisting the elbow awkwardly, lifting a heavy object or other intense stress on the muscle. 

Biceps tendon ruptures are more common in men who are over the age of 30, particularly those who smoke or use corticosteroid medication.

Symptoms of a Biceps Tendon Rupture

Aside from the pain, there are a number of symptoms that can indicate you’ve suffered a biceps tendon rupture. Symptoms may include some or all of the following:

  • Swelling
  • A popping sound at the time of injury 
  • Bruising at the elbow or shoulder
  • Severe pain and weakness at the shoulder or elbow
  • Trouble rotating your palm from up to down 
  • A bulge in the upper part of your arm (also called “Popeye muscle”)

Best Treatment for a Biceps Tendon Rupture/Tear

Once we have determined you’ve experienced a biceps tendon rupture or tear, we will assess the severity of the injury. If the tear isn’t particularly severe, it may be treated non-surgically with a variety of therapies. These may include rest, ice, physical therapy, medication to reduce pain and swelling, and other treatments to help you recover over a period of months. 

Unfortunately, many tears do not heal well on their own or are serious enough to require surgery to regain arm strength and function by reattaching the tendon to the bone at the elbow or shoulder. Depending on your injury and specific needs, Dr. Porter may use minimally-invasive arthroscopic surgery to accomplish this. 

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When is surgery required for a biceps tear?

Unless the condition is extreme, Dr. Porter will always begin with conservative options and treatments to help restore your strength. He will start by properly diagnosing your pain with a series of tests to understand exactly what your injury is and how severe it is. If usual therapies and treatments are not working, or the condition is quite severe, Dr. Porter will discuss your surgical options to achieve the successful outcome and regain the agility you need as an athlete.

Surgery to reattach the tendon is safe and can return nearly all of your arm strength and function. After surgery, you will need to do physical therapy for several months, including flexibility and strengthening exercises. 

Recovery after your surgery

Recovery time varies depending on the complexity of the surgery required due to the severity of the injury itself. In many cases, the surgery can be performed using local anesthetic, which allows you to return home the same day.

Expect your healing process to take about 4 to 6 months before it is fully complete. Your arm may be in a splint or brace for 4 to 6 weeks, and you may have a sling for 1-2 weeks. The swelling will slowly subside during this period of time. Once the sling is removed, you will be working with a physical therapist to rebuild the agility, strength, and range of motion in your arm. You will have exercises to do at home as well. 

After about four months, patients can usually use their arm for more rigorous exercise, including sport-specific activities if you’re an athlete. Most athletes typically return to their sport after six months.

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Why choose Dr. David Porter?

As an active individual or athlete, suffering an injury can cause stress beyond the pain of the injury itself. When you can’t use your arm the way you want to, you’ll want to have an experienced professional at your side who can guide you through to a full recovery. Dr. David Porter is a board-certified, orthopedic surgeon who understands what you’re going through. He specializes in sports medicine, including repairing biceps tears and the many other injuries an athlete or active individual can experience that stop them from living the life they want to. Dr. Porter was the doctor for professional hockey, football, and basketball teams and has the experience, training, and dedication to your recovery that you’re looking for.

Read More About Dr. Porter

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Bicep Reattachment Testimonial- Dr. Porter

Bicep Reattachment Testimonial- Dr. Porter

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