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Old 02-10-2014, 11:20 AM   #1
Matt A. Windsor
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Distal biceps tendon rupture - recovery?

So about 2 weeks ago I was lifting a freakin' BOX SPRING *facepalm* and in the process of lifting it, heard the *pop* and dropped it, and felt INTENSE pain and swelling. Went to the ER (healthcare pays 100% for accidental injuries) then the PCP the next day. They scheduled an MRI, and healthcare denied it.

So I called my ortho (same one who worked on my left shoulder) and they told me to get thee hence to the clinic; once they looked at the arm, they said "You're getting an MRI *now.* LOL

I officially find out tomorrow whether or not I've torn it, though it's pretty obvious to me - I mean, if you Google 'distal biceps tendon rupture' and look at the symptoms, how it normally happens to someone, etc., I fit it EXACTLY.

So my question is - for those of you (if any) who have had this, what does it mean as far as limitations? Everything I've heard says pretty much nothing on that arm up till unrestricted (aside from anything mentioned in PT, that is), and then nothing 'heavy' till about 6 to 9 months. I'm simply trying to find out who else has had this and what their experience might have been so I know what to look forward to.
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Old 02-10-2014, 03:12 PM   #2
Jacob Burns
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Re: Distal biceps tendon rupture - recovery?

I've had distal biceps ruptures on both arms. The first was a 95% tear, the second was a 60% tear. I did NOT have either of them operated on. The first I was about 2 months before my wedding and didn't want to be in a brace. So, I did physical therapy and some things on my own. Luckily it healed extremely well but it was a long process. Probably close to a year before I was 100%. With the second, I figured I was able to rehad on my own basically, so well, that I opted for no surgery again. Still was about 8 months recovery. I will say that I was very proactive during the recovery process. After swelling subsided, about 2 weeks in, I started to do LIGHT curls and forearm excises as well as pressing moving in an extremely slow/light manner.

Again, not sure if this was the best move but it worked. I will say I have lost a few degrees of extension in both arms.
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Old 02-11-2014, 05:50 PM   #3
Sean Rockett
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Re: Distal biceps tendon rupture - recovery?

So Jacob had partial tears. There is a difference between partial and complete. Complete retracts fully and no operative management has been shown to lose 30% flexion strength of elbow and also about 30 % supination strength (like turning screwdriver). Typically 3 to 4 months for feeling pretty good about daily activities and strengthening and 6 to 9months for heavy stuff.
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Old 02-15-2014, 10:57 AM   #4
Matt A. Windsor
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Re: Distal biceps tendon rupture - recovery?

Well, went to the doctor last Tuesday, and he said "I remember from talking with you about your previous surgery that you're pretty intelligent and very observative. Unfortunately, that hasn't changed here. LOL"

The MRI revealed that I had torn about 90% of the biceps tendon; he said that unless I planned on never working out again and was happy with my current strength level (I wasn't), he'd recommend surgery.

That was Tuesday. Wednesday I had the surgery....am at home resting now with my arm bandaged in a sling. I go back Thursday to get fitted for one of those ROM braces.

Is there a good place here for starting a thread about a 'recovery' day by day/week by week from this, or would this forum be the best place for it?
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Old 02-21-2014, 11:20 AM   #5
Skip Chase
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Re: Distal biceps tendon rupture - recovery?

I experienced a complete (100%) distal rupture of my left biceps-bull riding injury. My bicep retracted into a baseball sized lump just below my anterior deltoid. As doc Rockett says, I have decreased supination strength, but my elbow flexion strength is 100%, compared to my right. (I am left handed)

The injury occurred in 1997 when I was 45. During the same accident, I ruptured the bicep and my inguinal ligament. It took about a year to totally recover.
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Old 02-21-2014, 11:27 AM   #6
Matt A. Windsor
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Re: Distal biceps tendon rupture - recovery?

Good to know. I'm about a week and 2 days out. I experienced a reaction to the Percocet on day 5 post-surgery, and told the doc I wanted off of it, and out of the cast. They said 'Well, it's really supposed to wait until day 7.'

I told them "Let me restate this. It's coming off. Your choice as to who does it."

2 hours later they were removing the cast. LOL

They were happy with my progress, though. I'm about 20 degrees short of full extension on my arm, and that's only because I feel the 'pulling' at the insertion site when I extend it that far.

Supination and pronation of the hand are different matters. LOL Due to some obvious short-term nerve damage it hurts like a MOTHER to pronate. That said, I can still get pretty darn close to full pronation/supination. It's obviously got a lot to do with muscles repairing themselves and atrophying - some days I can do darn near full pronation/supination and extension; other days (like today) if I've used it a lot or what have you, it can be semi-limited.

Obviously this is going to be a longer recovery than any other surgery I've had, but everything I've read says that as LONG AS I take it slow, rehab it correctly, etc., it should be as good as new in a year or so.

Last edited by Matt A. Windsor : 02-21-2014 at 11:33 AM.
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Old 03-17-2014, 06:16 AM   #7
Matt A. Windsor
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Re: Distal biceps tendon rupture - recovery?

Update (for those who care, or might have had this occur):

Surgery was 12 Feb 2014; it's now about 5 weeks (give or take) post surgery.

This has been an interesting one to recover from. I'm no stranger to recovery from surgeries (having had an L5/S1 microdiscectomy in 2005, bilateral carpal release in 2006, left acromioplasty in 2007, right acromioplasty in 2008, ankle surgery in 2010 and a left acromioplasty revision in 2012). However, this is the 'longest term' recovery I've been through. All of the rest were essentially a recovery from removal of scar tissue/bone fragment/etc. This is obviously different.

Pain level was pretty high for the first week, and then went down rather fast. Just out of the cast (at one week post-op) my flexibility and strength sucked; my wrist and elbow felt like they were broken due to the immobility followed by recovery from the same. I just now was released to allow my arm to hang free from the ROM brace (with gravity assisting the stretching), and to resume CrossFit (no running and obviously no exercising on the right arm, but unlimited on anything else).

I've just about regained full extension/flexion, and almost full supination/pronation. What helped me a LOT (and this is determined by the doc) was to grab a hammer, and hold it like a kid would ("choking up" on the handle) and then supinate/pronate your hand, to allow the weight of the head to aid in supination/pronation. In probably 4 days I've gone from 20 degrees short to being able to get pretty much get full supination/pronation unaided.

In 3 weeks (the official 7 week point) I'm allowed to begin resistance training on that arm, as well as anything aerobic (running/elliptical training).
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Old 05-15-2014, 02:25 PM   #8
Daniel Schoenbrod
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Re: Distal biceps tendon rupture - recovery?

Today is day 3 after surgery for me. (distal biceps tendon rupture). I will have to keep this initial post short, as the one (non dominant) hand typing is really annoying. Injury happened during tire flips, and the pop was unmistakable.
I was surprised though, how functional my arm was without an attached biceps.
Surgery was 10 days after injury. the long road to recovery is ahead of me and I appreciate all reports on how y'all handled it and what worked for you.
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Old 05-19-2014, 07:58 PM   #9
Matt A. Windsor
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Re: Distal biceps tendon rupture - recovery?

Hey Daniel - apologies for just now getting around to answering your message. (At least you injured yours in a 'studlier' way than I did. LOL)

The doctor told me that I didn't *have* to get it repaired, but considering what I do (CrossFit, pick up stuff around the farm, etc.), it made more sense to get it repaired. He agreed, and it was repaired about 2 weeks and a day after surgery.

It hurt like the dickens for about 3 days and then suddenly ramped down very quickly. About a week out I graduated to the ROM brace/sling.

I gained almost full extension/flexion around week 4. I gained full supination/pronation about week 6 or so.

I could go into detail but I've been doing a lot of typing today; I'll share more tomorrow.
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Old 05-21-2014, 02:05 PM   #10
Daniel Schoenbrod
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Re: Distal biceps tendon rupture - recovery?

Thx Matt! I'm looking forward to compare progress notes as my recovery goes on. haha, I just looked back at that first sentence and thought : "recovery for time...3-2-1 go!" But I'm not that stupid, I hope. I know I gotta take this slow or at least as slow as necessary. Btw. How is your recovery to date? 100%

Injury log...9 days post surgery: Not much pain at all. But the immobilization, especially in the shoulder caused by the sling, was a major pain in the butt! and caused a good amount of shoulder discomfort from lack of movement.
First time Physical Therapy today, let's see where I'm at.
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