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SLAP/Proximal biceps tear

SLAP or proximal biceps tears describe injury to the biceps at the should joint. 

SLAP/Proximal biceps tear

SLAP or proximal biceps tears describe injury to the biceps at the should joint.  

middle aged male working with timber in carpenters workshop following successful biceps tear treatment

What is SLAP or proximal biceps tear?

Standing for Superior Labrum Anterior and Posterior, a SLAP or proximal biceps tear often occurs after intense impact or force. Common causes include motor vehicle accidents, car accidents, overuse, or shoulder dislocation. Injury can also result from gradual wear on the muscles. This injury is most common amongst sportspeople, people who regularly lift heavy objects for work, and elderly people who have experienced gradual muscle degeneration in the bicep area.

Pain is the first and most obvious symptom of a proximal bicep tear. Then, after the immediate onset, you may also experience weakness, tenderness, and restricted movement in the upper arm. Visual symptoms such as bruising and swelling in the upper arm are also common. Left untreated, these symptoms can progress into more serious conditions such as tendinitis, shoulder impingement or rotator cuff injuries.

Typically, the first step in diagnosing a tear in your bicep area is a physical examination. Your doctor will make a visual assessment of your injury and use various physical tests to assess the range of motion and strength in your affected arm. They will also examine your medical history to determine all possible contributing causes. Then, the doctor may order an X-ray, an MRI scan, or a combination of the two in order to detect any underlying problems and determine the extent of the injury.

Both surgical and non-surgical treatment options exist for a proximal biceps tear. The non-surgical treatment options include anti-inflammatory medication and physical therapy, both of which can be very effective in treating less severe bicep tears. If non-surgical treatment proves ineffective or the bicep is badly damaged, your doctor may recommend arthroscopic surgery. In this procedure, the doctor will release the bicep tendon attachment or remove the torn part and suture it.

Patients who undergo bicep surgery generally enjoy a high rate of success. However, the results you can expect after a proximal biceps tear depend on factors such as the severity and location of the initial injury and your commitment to your surgeon’s post-surgical recovery advice, which is the biggest predictor of rehabilitation success. If you follow your rehabilitation plan and modify potentially problematic lifestyle factors, you can expect to experience a gradual increase in strength and a reduction in pain.

Many of the risks involved in surgery and rehabilitation for a proximal bicep tear can be applied to any invasive surgical operation. Possible complications during surgery include infection, blood clots or blood vessel damage, excessive bleeding, and adverse reactions to medication. After surgery, you will need to rest your arm in a sling for two to six weeks and avoid any unnecessary movement. Longer-term, you may also need to modify or avoid certain activities with potential to aggravate your injury, including certain sports or physical aspects of your job.

Your rehabilitation process will depend on your initial response to the treatment. If your arm is healing well after the surgery, you may start rehabilitation as soon as one to two weeks after surgery. Your doctor or surgeon will provide a program of rehabilitative exercises designed to increase range of motion and flexibility and strengthen your bicep and your arm muscles gradually. The rehabilitation process may extend over several months depending on the severity of your injury and your commitment to the rehabilitative program.

Preparing for your visit

Dr Cheriachan consults from Norwest on Wednesdays and Blacktown on Mondays and Thursdays.

Your first visit will be used to carefully assess your condition as well as gathering all related health information. It is important that you bring all relevant documents including scans and x-rays. We also ask that you wear clothing that allows freedom of movement as your visit will include a physical examination. 

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