If you are experiencing pain and swelling in your elbow, you may be suffering from a biceps tendon tear. This is an injury that can occur from activities such as lifting weights, throwing a ball, or falling on an outstretched arm.
This blog post will discuss the symptoms and treatment of this condition and how to best manage your distal bicep tendon tear.
What is a distal biceps tendon tear and what are the symptoms?
A distal bicep tendon tear is a rupture of the tendon that attaches the biceps muscle to the forearm. This can occur either at the elbow or where the tendon inserts into the bone.
When the tendon ruptures, there is often a “pop” at the elbow.
Symptoms of a distal bicep tendon tear include:
- Pain and swelling in the elbow
- Tenderness on examination
- Weakness in the arm
If you suspect that you have a distal bicep tendon tear, you will want to see an orthopedic specialist as quickly as possible. Distal biceps tendon tears can be confirmed with a physical examination and imaging studies such as x-ray, ultrasound, or MRI.
Causes of distal bicep tendon tears
There are a few different causes of distal bicep tendon tears. The most common cause is an injury, such as a fall or lifting weights. Other causes include overuse of the arm, degeneration of the tendon with age, or a previous injury to the elbow.
How to treat a distal bicep tendon tear
A distal bicep tendon tear will generally necessitate surgery. However, non-surgical therapy choices might be accessible depending on the severity of the damage as well as other factors such as lifestyle and age.
Non-surgical treatment may include:
- Immobilization in a sling or splint
- Physical therapy
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications
- Platelet-rich plasma injections for partial tears or tendinopathy
Surgery for treating a distal bicep tendon tear
With this injury, surgery is often required to reattach the tendon to the bone. In some cases, a piece of tissue may need to be used to help repair the tendon.
It’s important to note that this surgery should be completed within 2-3 weeks after the injury. After the first couple of weeks, the tendon and biceps muscle begin to scar and shorten, making it potentially difficult to restore arm function with surgery.
After surgery, you will likely need to wear a splint or sling for two to four weeks. Physical therapy will also be started early to help regain strength and motion in the arm.
Recovery from a distal bicep tendon tear
It can take 2-3 months to fully recover from a distal bicep tendon tear. The amount of time it takes will depend on the severity of your injury and whether or not you had surgery. With proper rehabilitation, you are able to regain full function of your arm and return to sports and other activities.
If you think you may have a distal bicep tendon tear, or are experiencing any pain or swelling in your elbow, be sure to contact an orthopedic specialist right away. Early diagnosis and treatment are key to a successful recovery.