Treatments & Conditions | Hand Microsurgery in Erie, PA

Upper Arm Injuries & Conditions | Hand Microsurgery in Erie, PA

The experienced medical staff of Hand Microsurgery specialize in treatment of the upper extremities, including the upper arm. The head of your upper arm bone fits into a rounded socket in your shoulder blade called the glenoid. A combination of muscles and tendons keeps your arm centered in your shoulder socket. The biceps muscle is in the front of your upper arm. It helps you bend your elbow and rotate your arm and also helps keep your shoulder stable. The biceps muscle has two tendons that attach it to bones in the shoulder. The long head attaches to the top of the shoulder socket. The short head of the biceps tendon attaches to a bump on the shoulder blade called the coracoid process.

Biceps Tendonitis

Biceps tendonitis is inflammation of the long head of the biceps tendon. This usually occurs along with other shoulder problems and in most cases, there is also damage to the rotator cuff tendon. In the early stages of biceps tendonitis, the tendon becomes red and swollen. As tendonitis develops, the outer covering of the tendon can thicken and possibly grow larger. The tendon in these late stages is often dark red in color due to the inflammation. Occasionally, the damage to the tendon can result in a tendon tear, and then deformity of the arm. A few symptoms of biceps tendonitis include:

  • Pain or tenderness in the front of the shoulder, which worsens with overhead lifting or activity
  • Pain or achiness that moves down the upper arm bone
  • An occasional snapping sound or sensation in the shoulder

In most cases, damage to the biceps tendon is due to a lifetime of overhead activities. As we age, our tendons slowly weaken with everyday wear and tear. This degeneration can be worsened by overuse or repeating the same shoulder motions again and again. Swimming, tennis, and baseball are some sports examples of repetitive overhead activities. Many jobs and routine chores can cause overuse damage as well. Repetitive overhead motion plays a part in other shoulder problems that occur with biceps tendonitis. Rotator cuff tears, osteoarthritis, and chronic shoulder instability are often caused by overuse.

Biceps Tendon Tear at the Elbow

Your biceps tendons attach the biceps muscle to bones in the shoulder and in the elbow. If you tear the biceps tendon at the elbow, you will lose strength in your arm and be unable to forcefully turn your arm from palm down to palm up. Once torn, the biceps tendon at the elbow will not grow back to the bone and heal. Other arm muscles make it possible to bend the elbow fairly well without the biceps. However, they cannot perform all the functions, especially the motion of rotating the forearm from palm down to palm up. A few symptoms of a biceps tendon tear at the elbow incude:

  • Swelling in the front of the elbow
  • Visible bruising in the forearm and elbow
  • Weakness in bending of the elbow
  • Weakness in twisting the forearm
  • A bulge in the upper part of the arm created by the recoiled, shortened biceps muscle
  • A gap in the front of the elbow created by the absence of the tendon

The main cause of a distal biceps tendon tear is a sudden injury. These tears are rarely associated with other medical conditions. Biceps tendon tears can be either partial or complete. In most cases, tears of the distal biceps tendon are complete. This means that the entire muscle is detached from the bone and pulled toward the shoulder. Other arm muscles can substitute for the injured tendon, usually resulting in full motion and reasonable function. Left without surgical repair, however, the injured arm will have a 30% to 40% decrease in strength, mainly in twisting the forearm. 

Start recovering today, make an appointment at Hand Microsurgery in Erie, PA.

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