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Wednesday, April 3

I tore my biceps tendon! Now what?

The biceps muscle
Everyone knows the biceps muscle, the large muscle on the front of the arm.  The biceps has a tendon at the top of the arm that attaches in the shoulder and and another tendon that attaches at the elbow.  The biceps can be torn in either location.  Either type of tear can cause a "popeye" deformity in the arm, and means a loss of strength. 

Most people who tear their biceps tendon are male, in their 50's or 60's, and are lifting something or lowering something down.  Most say something like "it felt like I got hit in the arm" or "it felt like somebody shot me in the arm."  They will have pain and notice an extra bulge in the arm.  The bulge occurs because one end of the tendon has broken free and pulled back, like a rubber band, and the muscle balls up, creating a bulge.
Here's a picture of a torn biceps tendon.  Can you see the bump in the arm?
A torn biceps tendon causes a bump in the arm, or "popeye" deformity
Here's a video of a biceps tear as it happens:


Some people don't want surgery to repair their torn biceps.  For active people in their 50's and 60's, however, many patients choose to have surgery to repair the torn tendon.  Repair will restore the normal look of the muscle, increase strength, and prevent cramping that comes from having a torn, balled-up muscle.  Surgery is an outpatient procedure that is done through a 1-2 inch incision in the arm.  Recovery from surgery takes three months until return to full function.  

If you think you've torn your biceps, you should see a specialist to discuss your options.

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