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Biceps tendon tear

What is Biceps Tendon Tear?

The important muscle in the front of upper arm is biceps. It helps in bending and rotating the arm. This muscle has got two attachments in the upper end. One of them goes into the shoulder joint to get attached into the cartilage structure called superior labrum located at the top end of the glenoid (disc like cup) of the shoulder joint. Indirectly, the biceps also confers some stability to the shoulder joint. A tear occurring in the biceps tendon can be partial or complete. If there is a tear in the attachment of the biceps tendon in the shoulder joint it is called as SLAP lesion. The long head of the biceps tendon is more likely to be injured. This is because it is vulnerable as it travels through the shoulder joint to its attachment point in the glenoid. When the biceps tendon is torn during the injury, the injury could also damage other parts of the shoulder joint such as rotator cuff tendons

What causes it?

The tear can occur as a result of severe injury or may occur because the tendon has worn. There are certain risk factors that can result in wear of the tendon. Some of the common ones are ageing, smoking, repetitive overhead activities and those who are on steroid medicine.

What are the symptoms/effects?

When it is torn, it can cause a sudden sharp pain in the upper arm, bruising in the upper arm, weakness in the shoulder and elbow.

How is it diagnosed?

By doing physical examination and necessary investigation such as an Ultrasound scan, the diagnosis can be confirmed.

What are the treatment options?

The treatment depends on the symptoms. Fortunately, the biceps has two attachments at the shoulder. The other attachment is outside the shoulder joint. Because of this second attachment, many people can still use their biceps even after a complete tear of the other attachment.

In some, it may result in weakness and if that is the main concern, the tendon can be reattached to the bone by a procedure called Arthroscopy assisted biceps tenodesis.