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Biceps Tendon Tear at the Shoulder

Last updated July 17, 2018

Approved by: Krish Tangella MD, MBA, FCAP

Biceps Tendon Tear at the Shoulder is an injury that occurs, when the bicep tendon that attaches to the shoulder, tears.


What are the other Names for this Condition? (Also known as/Synonyms)

  • Shoulder Biceps Rupture
  • Biceps Rupture at the Shoulder
  • Ruptured Biceps at the Shoulder

What is Biceps Tendon Tear at the Shoulder? (Definition/Background Information)

  • The bicep muscle (between the shoulder and elbow) has two connective tendons that attach the muscle to the bone. One tendon attaches the bone to the shoulder, and the other tendon attaches the bone to the elbow.
  • Biceps Tendon Tear at the Shoulder is an injury that occurs, when the bicep tendon that attaches to the shoulder, tears
  • It is usually caused from any physical activity, such as an athletic sport, or a normal daily activity that require a repetitive use of the shoulder muscles.
  • Overall, there is a high rate of occurrence of this condition, among elderly individuals
  • A bicep tendon tear can either be partial or complete.
  • The treatments associated with Biceps Tendon Tear at the Shoulder include both nonsurgical and surgical methods

Who gets Biceps Tendon Tear at the Shoulder? (Age and Sex Distribution)

  • Bicep Tendon Tears at the Shoulder may occur in individuals of all age, race, ethnic groups, or gender
  • However, in older individuals, this condition has high rate of prevalence
  • Individuals performing certain occupations, athletes participating in any sports, all involving repetitive motions, are at an increased risk of this shoulder injury

What are the Risk Factors for Biceps Tendon Tear at the Shoulder? (Predisposing Factors)

Common risk factors associated with Biceps Tendon Tear at the Shoulder include:

  • Elderly adult individuals
  • Certain occupations that involve repetitive lifting or pulling of heavy objects, such as with construction, industrial work
  • Highly stressful and repetitive activities related to sports
  • Use of steroid medication
  • Researchers have found that smoking can affect the nutrition quality in the tendon, which can increase the risk of a Bicep Tendon Tear

It is important to note that having a risk factor does not mean that one will get the condition. A risk factor increases ones chances of getting a condition compared to an individual without the risk factors. Some risk factors are more important than others.

Also, not having a risk factor does not mean that an individual will not get the condition. It is always important to discuss the effect of risk factors with your healthcare provider.

What are the Causes of Biceps Tendon Tear at the Shoulder? (Etiology)

Causal factors of a Bicep Tendon Tear at the Shoulder include:

  • Certain occupations that require excessive overhead lifting or pulling of heavy objects, such as with construction
  • Certain sports activities that require a set of repetitive use of the shoulder for prolonged periods, such as with tennis, basketball
  • Fall injuries that causes stress to the biceps tendon. One of the instances this can occur is, when an individual breaks a fall with the use of his/her shoulder muscles

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Biceps Tendon Tear at the Shoulder?

Signs and symptoms of a Bicep Tendon Tear at the Shoulder are:

  • Pain, bruising in the upper arm
  • Bicep muscles starts to cramp
  • Pain or tenderness in the shoulder and elbow
  • Shoulder and elbow weakness
  • Problems with rotating arm, palm up or palm down
  • A bulge in the upper arm, due to contraction of the biceps muscle (which forms a lump), as a result of a complete tear of the biceps tendon

How is Biceps Tendon Tear at the Shoulder Diagnosed?

Diagnostic methods that a physician may use to help diagnose Biceps Tendon Tear at the Shoulder include:

  • Physical examination: The physician performs a thorough physical examination of the shoulder. Individuals are also expected to provide an explanation of the circumstances that caused the injury. In addition to this, a complete medical history can aid in arriving at a definitive diagnosis
  • X-ray of the shoulder: X-rays use radiation in order to produce images of the shoulder. These can also help your physician rule out other possible causes for shoulder discomfort, such as a fracture
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): An MRI is a more detailed scan that uses a magnetic field to produce images, which allows a physician to view any damage to the bones and soft tissue, to confirm the diagnosis

Many clinical conditions may have similar signs and symptoms. Your healthcare provider may perform additional tests to rule out other clinical conditions to arrive at a definitive diagnosis.

What are the possible Complications of Biceps Tendon Tear at the Shoulder?

Complications arising from a Bicep Tendon Tear at the Shoulder include:

  • Recurrence of the injury
  • Abnormal bone growth surrounding the injury (myositis ossificans)
  • Prolonged and chronic pain

How is Biceps Tendon Tear at the Shoulder Treated?

Treatments associated with Biceps Tendon Tear at the Shoulder include both nonsurgical and surgical methods. Elderly individuals, who have an increased risk of complications for a surgical intervention, are often treated using nonsurgical conservative treatment methods.

Nonsurgical treatment measures include:

  • Any activity that aggravates the shoulder condition should be avoided. The physician may advise the individual to refrain from participating in any physical activities, till the pain or symptoms get better
  • Applying ice to the shoulder or arm can help reduce pain and swelling
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory oral medications, such as indomethacin and naproxen, can help reduce pain and swelling of the shoulder
  • Individuals are likely to need physical therapy. The goal of these exercises is to strengthen the muscles within the shoulder, improve flexibility, and decrease stiffness. It may take several months for an individual to complete the physical therapy program

Surgical treatment measures include:

  • Arthroscopy: Arthroscopic surgery is a moderately invasive surgical intervention that is used to reattach the torn tendon back to the bone, using small surgical instruments. These instruments are inserted through a small incision within the shoulder

How can Biceps Tendon Tear at the Shoulder be Prevented?

In individuals with a history of Bicep Tendon Tear, a daily stretching exercise program may help reduce the chances of its recurrence. It is also important to incorporate exercises (into one’s activities) to help strengthen the shoulder or biceps. A few other steps to help prevent Biceps Tendon Tear at the Shoulder include:

  • Avoid any repetitive lifting or pulling (especially overhead) of objects that are heavy
  • In sports, learn the correct techniques and avoid poor (overhead) throwing techniques
  • Quit smoking; this can contribute favorably in preventing a Bicep Tendon Tear at the Shoulder

What is the Prognosis of Biceps Tendon Tear at the Shoulder? (Outcomes/Resolutions)

  • In a majority of the individuals, the long-term prognosis of a Bicep Tendon Tear at the Shoulder is usually good. The individuals can regain their full strength and range of motion
  • However, those with a more severe condition may experience recurrence of the symptoms, even after physical therapy has been completed. The duration for a complete recovery may be prolonged

Additional and Relevant Useful Information for Biceps Tendon Tear at the Shoulder:

A shoulder joint tear is when the cartilage (the labrum) surrounding the shoulder socket tears. It is also known as torn labrum of the shoulder. Such injuries are very painful and may be the result of any sudden or violent physical activity, or due to overuse of the shoulder.

The following article links will help you understand a shoulder joint tear.

https://www.dovemed.com/diseases-conditions/shoulder-joint-tear/

What are some Useful Resources for Additional Information?


References and Information Sources used for the Article:


Helpful Peer-Reviewed Medical Articles:


Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: Jan. 13, 2014
Last updated: July 17, 2018