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What Are Symptoms of a Biceps Tendon Rupture?

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  • Written By: Alex Said
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 04 November 2016
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The biceps muscle and tendons are just one example of some of the many superficial structures that are located in the arm. Many shoulder and arm injuries are a result of trauma to these structures. When an injury causes the bicep tendon to detach from its connection to the bone, it is called a biceps tendon rupture. This injury can be very painful, creating bruising and swelling in the arm; the injury to the tendon can also prevent the muscle from moving the bone. There are two types of this type of rupture: proximal biceps tendon rupture and distal biceps tendon rupture.

A biceps rupture at the proximal end is most commonly seen in patients and has very few symptoms. It occurs when there is a rupture at the biceps tendon where it meets the shoulder joint. When the rupture occurs, there usually is a sudden pain along with a snap that can be heard. Pain is at a minimum, and more often than not, the person will experience relief from pain following the rupture. The tendon is detached from the bone, so it will retract within the arm, and a bulge at the bicep muscle is evident. A slight twitching is often noticed, but usually, patients do not experience loss of function in the arm or shoulders, which is because the biceps tendon attaches to the shoulder in two places.

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A rupture that occurs near the elbow joint is called a distal rupture, which often involves surgery in order to get the tendon repaired. If a person does not seek surgery to correct this rupture, a loss of strength will result. This usually will happen at the elbow. Symptoms for this type of rupture are characterized by a snap where the rupture has occurred and sudden pain around the front of the elbow. Bruising and swelling also are common symptoms.

Treatment for this type of rupture differs depending on the type of rupture. Usually, there is no need for surgery for a proximal biceps tendon rupture, but surgery is often required for a distal biceps tendon rupture. The reason for this is because the biceps tendon is attached in two places at the proximal end, whereas it is attached to only one place at the distal end.

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