Sports rehab for biceps strain is common to sports where there is contact, throwing, repetitive overhead motion and weight lifting. For example football, baseball pitchers, swimmers, tennis players and body builders. This injury is also common to people with poor circulation, poor nutrition, previous upper arm problems and poor conditioning.
A biceps strain occurs when the muscle located between the elbow and shoulder (front of upper extremity) is overstretched causing some or all of the fibers to tear.
The biceps includes a short head and a long head that work as a team. The long head (proximal tendon) attaches into the shoulder and the short head (distal tendon) inserts into a bone in the forearm. The primary function of the biceps muscle is to bend your elbow and turn your arm.
The types of biceps injury fall into 3 categories (1) grade 1 is a minor over stretching of the muscle and there is no tearing of muscle fibers or loss of strength (2) grade 2 results in moderate tearing of the muscle and some loss of strength and (3) grade 3 is severe or complete rupture of the biceps and at times may require a procedure. The most common biceps strain occurs in the long head and not so common in the short head.
In this article we will discuss causes, signs, sports rehab and prevention of this injury related to grades 1 and 2.
The most frequent causes of this injury are (1) a sudden and forceful impact on the elbow or shoulder (2) direct blow or injury to the shoulder (3) repetitive motion or overuse of the shoulder especially with overhead activity; thus placing stress on the long biceps head (4) overloading the short biceps head with excessive weight lifting and (5) preexisting shoulder conditions such as rotator cuff tears, biceps tendonitis or shoulder instability. An athlete in a sports rehab program will get a great education on how the injury evolves.
The most common signs for this injury are (1) pain, tenderness, swelling over the front of the shoulder (2) increased pain with shoulder and elbow motion especially against resistance (3) limited motion of shoulder and elbow (4) crepitation or grinding with shoulder mobility or palpation (5) slight visual bulging of the muscle and (6) bruising throughout biceps muscle.
On initially onset the athlete should go into R.I.C.E. mode where rest must be started immediately; ice applications several times per day for 20 minutes (24-48 hours); compression wrap to diminish swelling and elevation to stimulate blood flow. Once the acute pain subsides an appointment should be made with a sports rehab specialist. The therapist will utilize ultrasound, electrical stimulation and cold laser to accelerate the healing process. Ultrasound will decrease muscle inflammation, electrical stimulation will relax the muscle; prevent scarring and cold laser will reduce bruising that’s present.
Mild passive and active assistive range of motion exercises must be done to prevent stiffening of the joints. The next step in the sports rehab process is to slowly build strength back utilizing light weights and resistive bands. The endurance of upper extremity must be considered and an upper body ergometer is best for that. The sports rehab specialist should also apply kinesiology taping to protect the muscle from going into complete extension. A designed home exercise program should be performed daily to maintain motion and strength.
The best preventive measures are proper warm up exercises and stretching before activity.