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What is a biceps muscle tear?

A biceps muscle tear is damage to the fibres of the muscle group on the front of the upper arm. It is also known as a pulled biceps muscle, biceps muscle strain and a biceps muscle rupture. Physiotherapy is a successful way to treat a biceps muscle tear.

Upper arm passive stretch and lymphatic drainage exercises applied by therapistAbove: Upper arm passive stretch and lymphatic drainage exercises applied by therapist

What can cause a biceps muscle tear?

A biceps muscle tear is normally caused by a forcible contraction of the biceps muscle. The bicep is forcibly contracted; and, therefore, vulnerable to tearing, in activities involving bending of the elbow. This includes performing a ‘curl’ movement whilst weightlifting, pulling or lifting.

What are the symptoms of a biceps muscle tear?

The immediate sensation felt when the biceps muscle is torn is pain on the front of the upper arm. This pain is often accompanied by a ‘tearing’ sensation. With minor tears you may be able to continue activities or sport with minimal restriction. However, the pain and tightness may gradually increase following the exercise as bleeding and swelling occurs around the injured muscle. With more severe injuries, the immediate intense pain, weakness and muscle spasm usually means that you are unable to continue with your activity or sport. Other symptoms may include :

What should I do if I have a biceps muscle tear?

The first 24–48 hours are important in the management of a biceps muscle tear. Swelling is part of the normal healing process; however, excess swelling can prolong healing and cause further tissue damage. To control the amount of swelling, by reducing blood flow to the injured area, the RICE regime should be followed (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation).

You should continue the RICE regime until you arrange an assessment with a physiotherapist. Your initial assessment should ideally be within 48 hours of your injury.

Gentle massage can help in the treatment for a bicep muscle tear.Above: Gentle massage can help in the treatment for a bicep muscle tear.

What shouldn’t I do if I have a biceps muscle tear?

If you have a biceps muscle tear then you should avoid any activities which increase blood flow to the injured muscle for the first 48 hours. These include hot showers, elbow stretches, heat rubs, sports massage, consumption of alcohol and excessive activity. These activities can all increase bleeding within the biceps muscle, leading to further pain, prolonging your recovery.

Physiotherapy for a biceps muscle tear.

Physiotherapy is important in the treatment of a biceps muscle tear. At the initial assessment your physiotherapist can diagnose your injury, explain which tissues you have damaged and to what extent they are damaged. Following the assessment your physiotherapist can give you an indication of how long the injury should take to heal. Treatment varies dependent on the severity of the muscle tear. The main aim initially is to speed up recovery by reducing pain and swelling and enhancing the healing of the injured muscle fibres. As you improve your physiotherapist will provide you with a programme of exercises specifically designed for you. These exercises will accelerate your return to normal activity and / or participation in sport by focusing on increasing your range of movement, strength and function.

Other treatment may include: To arrange a physiotherapy appointment call on 0161 883 0077 or book online.

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