Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Biceps

Located in the front of the upper arm between the shoulder and elbow, the function of the biceps is to keep the shoulder stable. The biceps also helps to bend and flex the arm at the elbow joint. Composed of tendons and muscles, the tendons attach the biceps muscle to the bone. The upper portion of the biceps muscle has two tendons that attach to the shoulder. The long head attaches to the top of the shoulder or glenoid, while the short head attaches to a portion of the shoulder blade referred to as the coracoid. 

Picture courtesy of

The long head of the biceps tendon is more commonly injured. Common injuries include full and partial tears of biceps tendon and result from overuse or acute injury. These injuries often occur in conjunction with other injuries of the shoulder, such as Rotator Cuff Tears.

Symptoms of Biceps Tears:

  • Weakness of the shoulder/elbow
  • A bulge or deformity in the upper arm
  • Difficulty turning palm up and down
  • Sharp/sudden pain in upper arm
  • Cramping of the biceps muscle
  • Pain or tenderness in the shoulder/arm

Treatment of biceps tears can be non-surgical or surgical, depending on the severity of the injury. Non-surgical treatment includes ice, rest, anti-inflammatories and physical therapy. Surgical intervention is often needed, especially with athletes and physical laborers.

Surgery is most commonly performed arthroscopically. Two surgical procedures used to repair the biceps tendon are referred to as Biceps Tenodesis and Biceps Tenotomy. In Tenodesis, the biceps is repaired arthroscopically and the tendon is reattached to the bone. In Tenotomy, the biceps is cut and not repaired. Each procedure has advantages, depending on the patient and nature of the injury. A future blog post will review both procedures in greater detail.