Muscle ruptures around the elbow are not that common but if you ignore tell tale signs, you may miss a critical window of opportunity to treat them.
Ask any casual work out enthusiast and they can tell you where their biceps and triceps are.
The biceps runs down the front of the arm and the triceps runs down the back of the arm. The biceps contracts when the arm is flexed. The triceps’ contracts when the arm straightens.
Few people however, likely know someone that has torn either of these muscles around their elbow. And many likely don’t know the signs of a bicep or triceps rupture.
After reading this piece you should know what signs you should pay attention to and never miss a potential bicep or triceps tear. This is important because delays in treatment can make repair difficult or impossible.
When and how do muscle tears around the elbow occur?
Biceps tears near the elbow usually result when someone is lifting something heavy like a refrigerator or catching a heavy falling object.
Triceps tears may occur when someone is forcefully trying to straighten their elbow against a prevailing force- bench-pressing for example.
Men tend to rupture these muscles most often. It is rare to encounter these injuries in women. But they can happen to anyone if enough force is generated with the right activity.
How do you know if you’ve torn your triceps or biceps? You will likely feel a “POP”
The mechanism of injury is different for each muscle as stated above. But both types of injuries involve strong, forceful contractions of the muscle usually against some heavy force. In both types of injuries you will likely feel a “pop” in the elbow at the time of injury: a biceps tear would produce a pop in the front of the elbow, a triceps tear in the back of the elbow.
While both of these injuries may cause pain upon the initial rupture, surprisingly the pain may fade quickly.
I saw a patient once that ruptured his biceps lifting a heavy file cabinet. He said that he felt the pop, and that it was “shocking” and painful at the time, but then the pain quickly dissipated. So he ignored it until a family member urged him to see someone. By the time he saw me, about 1 month had elapsed since the injury.
Thankfully I was able to fix this gentleman’s tendon tear without any special additional procedures. But a significant delay in addressing either of these muscle ruptures can lead to permanent scarring. And scarring can prevent a straightforward repair making the injury much more difficult to treat.
Like the rotator cuff muscles of the shoulder, the biceps and triceps muscles, when torn completely from bone act like springs and retract. They can get permanently shortened if not addressed in a timely fashion.
Patients that I have treated with muscle ruptures around the elbow are usually surprised by how much bruising they have soon after the injury. Usually the bruising shows up a day or two after the injury and can be quite pronounced.
Your Arm Looks Funny
Muscle ruptures around the elbow cause tissue defects that you can either feel or see. You will often notice a “dip” or “depression” where the muscle previously was. This is usually one of the more disturbing aspects of these injuries for people.
If you are concerned that you may have torn a muscle in your elbow, do not hesitate to contact our office. Dr. DiPaola has extensive experience with triceps and biceps tendon repairs and will promptly see you and discus potential options.