You will probably feel a pain in the front of your shoulder which is immediately followed by a popping feeling. Your biceps muscle will then seem deformed, as its ‘belly’ will move towards your elbow whenever you flex it. This is the so-called ‘Popeye’ sign!
The pain should settle quite quickly, and with many patients especially older ones there is no problem apart from the deformity. Younger patients may feel aches and pains in the upper arm, especially when they flex their elbow.
The rupture tends to happen to three different types of people:
Whatever category you fit into, your shoulder specialist will discuss the symptoms and then examine your shoulder and arm. That should be enough for diagnosis, but occasionally a doctor might want to use an MRI or ultrasound to assess any damage to rotator cuff tendons.
To begin with treatment involves dealing with the symptoms. You should rest your arm and take anti-inflammatories. In older patients the discomfort should normally go away in a few weeks, and you’ll just be left with the ‘Popeye’ deformity.
In younger patients you may have an ongoing ache in the front of your arm, which gets worse when you lift or carry anything. If the symptoms are difficult to live with then you might need a biceps tenodesis, which is when the end of the tendon is fixed back onto the bone.