Biceps Tendon Injuries
by Dr Marcus Chia - Shoulder and Elbow Surgeon
These tendons can become weakened and inflamed (biceps tendonitis) over time from chronic overuse or heavy lifting, leading to fraying of the tendon and in some instances a complete tear or rupture. Biceps tendon injuries are also commonly seen in association with arthritis and tears of the rotator cuff muscles around the shoulder, which may allow the biceps tendon to subluxate from its normal groove.
The most obvious symptom associated with a biceps tendon injury will be pain. Some patients hear or feel a ‘pop’ when the tendon tears. Other symptoms include weakness in the shoulder or elbow or a bulge in the arm called a ‘popeye’ deformity.
If it is suspected that you may be suffering from a biceps injury, Dr Chia will perform a physical examination of the shoulder and elbow in addition to xrays. In certain cases an MRI is needed to confirm the injury and rule out any associated damage to the shoulder.
Initially, management will include rest, ice, analgesia and anti-inflammatory medications. A corticosteroid injection may be helpful. Physiotherapy is useful to gain back strength and flexibility lost with the injury.
The need for surgical management of biceps tendon injuries depends on age, activity level, the severity of the injury and the failure of conservative management. Biceps tendon tears at the elbow almost always require surgical repair.
The surgery involves either cutting the tendon within the shoulder joint called a biceps tenotomy or reattaching the tendon outside of the shoulder joint via key-hole (arthroscopic) or mini-open surgery. This procedure has been shown to be highly successful in alleviating the pain associated with biceps pathology while preserving the normal function of the shoulder.
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