The biceps muscle is one of the most well-known muscles of the arm. Each biceps muscle has two major tendons, which are strong, fibrous cords of tissue. The tendon at the top of the biceps connects to the shoulder, and the tendon at the bottom connects the biceps to the elbow.
If you experience an injury to one of your biceps tendons, you will likely need treatment from an orthopedic specialist. The team at Marin Orthopedics & Sports Medicine in Novato, CA, has been treating tendon injuries for years. Our doctors can diagnose your condition to help you find a solution that works for you.
Biceps Tendon Injuries at the Elbow
The biceps tendon at the elbow is much less likely to tear, but some sudden injuries can cause a tear. For some patients, nonsurgical treatments will strengthen surrounding muscles and help return some function to the biceps and elbow. Certain movements, like rotating the hand or forearm from a palm-down to a palm-up position, will not be possible with a torn tendon.
Because the injury can limit mobility, nonsurgical treatment is only recommended when a patient is OK with losing some elbow function. If the non-dominant arm is injured, for example, some older patients may opt out of unnecessary surgery. For patients with severe tears or those who cannot afford to lose any mobility in the elbow, surgery may be necessary. Your doctor will be able to go over all your treatment options during a consultation appointment while they evaluate the severity of your injury.
Biceps Tendon Injuries at the Shoulder
The upper part of the biceps splits into two separate tendons: one is called the long head, which attaches to the top of the shoulder socket, and the other is the short head, which connects to a bump on another part of the shoulder blade. The long head is more likely to be injured because if its location, and the short head rarely ever tears. Usually, the long head starts to fray and cause problems before fully tearing.
Since there are two attachment points for the upper half of the biceps, many patients can still use their biceps muscle even after a complete tear of the long head. Surgery is rarely needed for long head tears unless the individual is extremely active and requires the full strength of the biceps to return. Some athletes, manual labor workers, or individuals whose symptoms do not improve with other treatments may opt for surgery.
Depending on your specific condition, your doctor may recommend ice, rest, anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy, or other treatments to control discomfort and reduce any inflammation around the tendon.
Whether you tear the lower biceps tendon or the upper long head tendon, the goal of surgery will be to reattach the tendon to the bone using some surgical sutures or other techniques. If the tear is only partial, simply smoothing out the tissue or removing any jagged edges can ease pain and prevent additional tearing. Often these procedures can be completed arthroscopically, which means your doctor will insert a small camera into an opening near the joint, avoiding the need for a larger incision. The images from the camera will be played on a monitor in the operating room, allowing your doctor to visualize the injury and address any other nearby injuries.
Biceps Tendon Repair in Marin County
At Marin Orthopedics & Sports Medicine in Novato, CA, our team is dedicated to helping you live your most active lifestyle. We use clinically proven techniques to help you return to your favorite activities after an injury. Your safety is our highest concern, and we always recommend the least invasive but most effective treatment to fit your needs. If you experience a biceps injury, give our office a call for more information. One of our staff members will be happy to set up an appointment for you to discuss your injury with one of our doctors.