The Anatomy of the Bicep

The biceps muscle is located in the front of your upper arm between the shoulder and elbow. Attached by tendons, strong cords of fibrous tissue that attach muscle to bone, your biceps are used to flex your elbow and twist your forearm. A distal biceps tendon rupture is classified as a tear of the tendon from the forearm bone (radius). When the biceps tendon at the elbow tears, it will not grow back to the bone and heal on its own. Surgery to repair the torn tendon is required to regain arm strength and normal functionality.

What Causes a Distal Biceps Rupture?

The main cause of a distal biceps tendon tear is by a sudden injury. Injuries to the biceps tendon usually occur when the elbow is forced to extend straight against resistance. Lifting an item that is too large or heavy may cause your arms to straighten with weight. As the item pulls downward, flexing your biceps too hard may cause the tendon to tear away from the bone. Men who are 30 years or older are most likely to tear their distal biceps tendons. Additional risk factors for tearing the tendon include smoking and corticosteroid medicines, as both can contribute to decreased muscle and tendon strength.

What Are the Symptoms of a Ruptured Distal Biceps Tendon?

Rupturing a distal biceps tendon is typically painful and you will most likely know right when it happens. Sudden pain followed by bruising or swelling around the elbow are key indicators of an injury. Your biceps when compared to the opposite side will looked deformed or “balled up.”  After rupturing, your arm will still remain semi-functional. It is best to address an injury like this as soon as possible as other muscles will begin to compensate for lost strength, causing future harm to your arm down the line.  The window of opportunity to reattach the biceps and have a good outcome is typically 6-8 weeks following the injury.  After that time frame, recovery can be fraught with complications and chronic limitations.

Your Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnosing a distal biceps rupture typically only requires an evaluation of your medical history and a physical examination. Your doctor may choose to do an X-ray to rule out any bone injury or an MRI to determine the extent of tendon damage. After diagnosing the rupture, a minimally invasive surgery is required to reattach the distal bicep tendon back to the bone. One of two methods are typically used and have been proven to regain full functionality for patients.

  • One surgical option is to drill tiny holes in the bone to anchor the tendon to the bone.
  • The other uses a small metal device to attach the tendon to bone.

Orthopedic Joint Care in Illinois

Used to support weight bearing and lifting, your biceps are an integral part of your body. Losing even partial functionality of these muscles will result in an unwanted adjustment to most daily tasks. Waiting too long after an injury to see a doctor can decrease the success of your surgery as scar tissue will begin to form, limiting a doctor’s corrective ability. If you have been experiencing pain or swelling around your joints, contact Dr. Chams today. With over 25,000 arthroscopic knee and shoulder procedures completed, Dr. Chams is a highly experienced professional you need to move without pain once again. To learn more about the services and procedures Dr. Chams offers, schedule your appointment today.