Bicep Tendon Injury
Dealing With A Bicep Tendon Injury
If you’ve been sidelined with a bicep tendon injury, it’s important to take steps to correct the problem, and to prevent it from happening again.
The bicep muscle sits at the front of the upper arm. It helps you to be able to bend your elbow and rotate your arm. It also works to stabilize the shoulder. The bicep is attached at both the elbow and the shoulder by tendons. The tendon serves as a sort of middleman between bone and muscle. Injuring the bicep tendon is painful and can be difficult to recover from.
Two of the most common bicep tendon injuries are torn bicep and tendonitis.
A tear can occur in the bicep tendons at the shoulder as well as at the elbow; a cut in any of these tendons is considered a bicep tear.
This type of injury is typically caused by heavy lifting and/or repetitive motion. High impact trauma, like a car accident, can incidentally result in a torn bicep. However, it usually occurs after you’ve lifted too much weight too quickly, or after prolonged overuse of the shoulder or elbow. Body builders are susceptible to this type of damage, as are people who do a repetitive job or play certain sports.
Tendonitis is when a tendon has become extremely inflamed through repetitive motion or trauma such as heavy lifting. Often afflicted tendons will show signs of wear, such as fraying. This can eventually lead to bicep tendon tearing if the problem is not corrected.
Tendonitis is sometimes called “tennis elbow” or “golfer’s arm” because it has been associated with the repetitious nature of these and other similar sports. Any arm motion that is executed over and over for prolonged periods is likely to cause tendonitis.
Some of the ways to tell if your pain is caused by tendonitis are:
- Snapping or popping sounds at elbow
- Bicep cramp
- Difficulty turning palm all the way up or down
- Localized rash
- Disfiguration of bicep
Treatment and Care
There are some things you can do at home to recover from a bicep tendon injury, whether you’re dealing with tendonitis, a bicep tear, or both.
- Avoid exacerbating the injury with heavy lifting or other strenuous activities.
- Keep arm elevated to avoid blood pooling in the injured area.
- Take ibuprofen or other anti-inflammatories to control pain and swelling.
- Try taking alfalfa supplements, as some studies have indicated that alfalfa can aid tendon healing.
- Apply ice packs for 15-20 minutes at a time, several times per day. Use a cloth or bag so ice doesn’t sit directly on the skin.
- Don’t smoke. Smoking cigarettes compromises the healing process associated with any injury.
- Eat healthily and rest.
If ice, rest, and anti-inflammatory drugs don’t relieve your symptoms after a couple of weeks, you should probably seek medical attention. If bicep tendon injuries are not properly addressed, they can develop into lifelong problems. A doctor will want to discuss your symptoms and may use an x-ray or MRI to properly diagnose the source of your injury.
The doctor may prescribe additional medications to curb inflammation and will often tell you to wear a sling to inhibit motion. Physical therapy might be in order as your condition improves.
Surgery is not always necessary in cases of tendonitis and torn bicep, though there are re-attachment procedures available for extreme cases.
No matter what type of treatment you opt for, it is imperative that you are very careful not to re-injure your bicep before it has healed. If you are an athlete, work with a coach or trainer to ensure that you are using the best technique to avoid future injury. Consult a physical therapist if you feel that you are not regaining full range of motion as your bicep tendon injury heals.