We're going to muscle up against biceps tendon injuries around the elbow, a surprisingly yet often overlooked condition. You’ll learn about the intricate anatomy, common causes, unmistakable symptoms, reliable diagnostic tools, and of course, the remarkably effective non-surgical interventions available today, with a particular spotlight on physiotherapy.
Know Your Anatomy
Your biceps, one of the key muscles in your arm, features two tendons at the shoulder and one at the elbow, known as the distal biceps tendon. This tendon is pivotal, connecting the biceps muscle to a bone in your forearm (the radius). It is responsible for allowing you to bend your elbow and rotate your forearm, playing an essential role in everyday tasks.
Causes of Injury
Biceps tendon injuries around the elbow often result from overuse or sudden, intense force. Regularly engaging in heavy lifting, sports involving throwing or contact, or occupations requiring repetitive elbow movements can put you at risk. Age also plays a part; these injuries are more common in people over 30.
Unmasking the Symptoms
Key symptoms of a biceps tendon injury include sudden, sharp pain in the elbow, occasional swelling, bruising and difficulty turning the forearm. Over time, you might also notice a bulge in the upper arm or a gap in the front of the elbow, indicating a complete tear of the tendon.
Diagnosis: Clinical and Imaging
When these symptoms appear, it's crucial to consult a healthcare professional promptly. After a physical examination, an ultrasound might be employed. It's a non-invasive technique that uses sound waves to visualise your soft tissues in real time. In the case of a suspected biceps tendon injury, ultrasound can reveal the tendon's condition, confirming or ruling out tears and guiding the course of treatment. An MRI scan may also be required in some cases especially when there has been a delay in presentation or when planning for surgery.
Non-Surgical Management: Healing in Harmony
Here at ACTIVATE Musculoskeletal Clinic, we are advocates of non-surgical management for many biceps tendon injuries. This approach primarily involves Physiotherapy, which uses various techniques to promote mobility, reduce pain, restore function, and prevent further injury.
In the case of a biceps tendon injury, the initial phase of Physiotherapy might involve rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE), as well as pain relief medication as advised by your doctor. Once the acute phase has passed, you'll move into rehabilitation exercises focusing on gentle stretching and gradually increasing strength training.
Physiotherapy is a highly tailored treatment based on your specific needs and goals. It is a safe and effective way to restore function, optimize recovery, and prevent further injury, all without the potential risks and downtime associated with surgery.
Surgical Management: A Possible Pathway
While non-surgical treatments are often preferred, it's essential to note that in some cases, particularly with a complete tear of the distal biceps tendon, surgical intervention may be necessary. The surgery involves reattaching the torn tendon to the bone, aiming to restore strength and function. The procedure generally boasts a high success rate but, like all surgeries, it carries potential risks and necessitates a period of recovery and rehabilitation.
A well-rounded, preventative, and non-surgical approach will always win the race in musculoskeletal health. That's our firm belief and practice at ACTIVATE Musculoskeletal Clinic.
If you’re suffering from an elbow injury or any musculoskeletal discomfort, don’t delay. Contact ACTIVATE Musculoskeletal Clinic in Kent today to book your appointment. Let’s work together on your recovery journey, ensuring that you remain active and pain-free. Your muscles deserve the best care, and that’s exactly what we strive to provide.
Remember, when it comes to your health, the best action is pro-action. It’s time to activate your journey towards recovery and beyond. We can’t wait to help you start!
About the Author: Dr. Mustafa Alnaib MBChB, MRCS, MSc, FEBOT is an orthopaedic surgeon, musculoskeletal doctor and Clinic Director at ACTIVATE Musculoskeletal Clinic in Kent.