What is a biceps?

The biceps is a muscle located on the front of the upper arm. It is composed of two main parts—the short head and the long head—which work together to act as a single muscle. The muscle is connected to the forearm and the upper arm by a series of large tendons. When the biceps contract, the forearm is able to move up and rotate.

What are some common biceps conditions?

There are a few conditions that commonly affect the biceps, including:

Biceps Tendon Tears

Biceps tendon tears can occur at the shoulder and the elbow (elbow is less common than shoulder). These occur as a result of overuse—a natural wearing of the tendon due to repetitive motion—or an injury, such as a fall.

The tear can be partial—meaning the tendon is only frayed or slightly torn—or complete, which means the tendon is totally torn in two.

Biceps Tendonitis

Biceps tendonitis—also known as biceps tendinitis—is an inflammation of the long head tendon, which connects the biceps to the shoulder. This irritation is usually due to normal wear-and-tear as the body ages and can be made worse through repetitive motions.

Distal Biceps Tendon Tears

This is a tear in the tendon at the elbow, which is uncommon. It is typically caused by sudden injury and may result in more arm weakness than a tear in the tendon where it connects at the shoulder.

Ruptured Biceps

With a ruptured biceps, the tendon that attaches the biceps to the shoulder completely tears and is usually the result of wear-and-tear on the shoulder over time. It can also be due to shoulder impingement, where the soft tissues in between the top of the shoulder blade and the ball of the upper arm are pinched when the arm is in motion.

What are the common symptoms of biceps conditions?

Symptoms depend on the specific condition and where the issue is occurring. However, some common symptoms of these conditions include:

  • Difficulty using the arm
  • Inflammation and swelling
  • Pain
  • Weakness or stiffness in parts of the arm

What are some treatment options for biceps conditions?

Treatments can vary depending on the condition, but these are the most common:

Nonsurgical Treatments

Conservative methods of treatment recommended by a physician can include:

  • Resting the arm by avoiding strenuous activity for a period of time (which can also include using a sling)
  • Taking over-the-counter (OTC) medications to reduce pain and swelling as the injury heals
  • Receiving cortisone injections near the injured area to reduce pain and swelling
  • Participating in physical therapy to strengthen surrounding muscles so movement can be restored and future issues can be avoided

Surgical Treatments

There are a variety of surgical options to repair the tendon, reattach it to the bone or fully release it, depending on the condition causing the problem (e.g., a partial tear in the tendon versus a full tear). In many cases, surgery may not be necessary to fix the problem. In addition, some of the procedures can be done arthroscopically, lessening the amount of recovery time drastically.

Patients should speak to a physician to determine what method may work best to suit their needs.

Come to the Upper Extremity Specialists

At IGEA Brain, Spine & Orthopedics, our orthopedic surgeon specializes in treating injuries, including biceps conditions, using advanced treatment options. These and other specialties are part of our practice’s full continuum of care for patients living with brain, spine, neuroendovascular and orthopaedic conditions.

For more information about the superior care and services we provide or to schedule an appointment with one of our experts, contact us today.