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Rupture of the Biceps Tendon


Symptoms Checklist:

  • Your pain developed suddenly
  • You may have felt something “give way”
  • The muscle has bunched into a ball
  • You may have heard the tendon “pop” or snap
  • Your arm muscle is bulged (“Popeye sign”)

Rupture of the Biceps Tendon

Tendon attaches muscle to bone and is the focus for the “pull” of the muscle.  When you damage it, the muscle pulls part of the tendon away from the bone and the attachment point (or focus) becomes frayed and sore.  In a rupture, the tendon gets completely detached from the bone or the belly of the muscle and you can no longer move the joint. The biceps is different because it has two tendons instead of one, and usually only one tears.  This means that it is less sore than normal and that you can still bend your elbow upwards without too much pain but the muscle bulges upwards into a ball. 

Physical Therapy/Osteopathy and Biceps Tendon Rupture

When a tendon ruptures or severs completely it needs to be immobilised so that it can re-attach itself to the bone.  While this is happening the tendon and muscles shorten.  As the tendon tries to repair itself, it gets thicker and tighter.  The damaged fibres succeed in re-attaching themselves to the bone by forming scar tissue.  Unlike fractures, where the repair is better than the original, the quality of repair for tendons is poor.  This is because of the formation of that scar tissue, which sticks to the surrounding tissues and causes adhesions.  These adhesions and scar tissue damage the surrounding musculature and restrict circulation – bad for the healing process.  The result is that the tendon injury is more likely to recur as a result of the poor quality of the mend.  The Physical Therapist will work to correctly align the damaged fibres, gently stretch the shortened tendons and muscles, prevent the formation of adhesions, increase circulation and improve the quality of repair.  Because the blood supply to tendons is poor, the speed of recovery is also slow. Treatment not only speeds repair and recovery, but can dramatically improve the quality of repair.

Tags: Shoulder, Arms, Tendons, rupture -, Muscle sprain or strain, Sports Injuries, Tendinitis

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