Many people can still function with a partial biceps tendon tear of the long head, and only need nonsurgical treatments to relieve their symptoms. Nonsurgical treatment can be very effective, especially if there’s no other damage to the shoulder. This includes:
- Medication. Pain often resolves by itself over time. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen or naproxen can reduce pain and swelling. Check with your provider before taking.
- Ice. Apply cold packs for 20 minutes at a time, several times a day to keep down swelling. Do not apply ice directly to the skin.
- Rest. Avoid heavy lifting and overhead activities. We may recommend using a sling for a short period of time.
- Physical therapy. Restores flexibility, movement and strength to your shoulder.
Mild arm weakness or arm deformity may occur, but is often not a significant problem for most patients. You can expect symptoms from a torn biceps tendon to improve over several weeks to several months. You may be able to resume some activities earlier.
In certain rare cases your UCHealth orthopedic specialist may recommend a surgical procedure, such as a biceps tenodesis, if these measures don’t relieve symptoms, if you develop persistent pain or cramping of the muscle, or if you require complete recovery of strength, as in the case of many athletes.
We also recommend surgery for complete tears if they occur at the elbow and we need to reattach the tendon to the bone. Initial recovery time after surgery is typically six to eight weeks. Our orthopedic specialists are experts in all the latest procedures with minimal incisions, and will discuss the best procedure for your case.