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Biceps Tendon Tear

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The biceps muscle is located on the upper arm between the shoulder and the elbow and is used to control and stabilize the arm as well as help bend the elbow. The biceps muscle is connected to the bones by two tendons at the shoulder and one tendon at the radius bone at the elbow. If the tendons that attach the muscle to the bones in the shoulder and the elbow become torn, the forearm difficult to move. Once torn, the tendons do not grow back and heal on their own. This injury needs to be treated during the first 2 to 3 weeks after the damage occurs, if not the muscle will begin to scar and shorten.

Biceps Tendon Tear Causes

It is very rare for the biceps tendon tear to be associated with a medical condition. Most tears occur because of the elbow being forced straight against resistance. The most common cause of a tendon tear is when someone picks up an object that is too heavy and the stress on the biceps is too much and the tendon tears.

Men over the age of 30 are most likely to suffer from a tear as well as smokers and people who take corticosteroid, or anti-inflammatory, medications.

Some of the potential causes for a torn bicep tendon include:

  • Traumatic injury
  • Overuse such as repetitive overhead sports
  • Wear and tear of aging process
  • Heavy overhead activities such as weightlifting
  • Smoking, as nicotine use affects nutrition of the tendon
  • Medication causing muscle and tendon weakness

Biceps Tendon Tear Symptoms

The most common symptoms of biceps tendon tear are:

  • Acute pain in the front of the elbow
  • A pop or tearing sound when the damage occurs
  • Visible deformity when the elbow is flexed
  • Pain and weakness when holding objects
  • Bruising in the elbow or forearm


During a physical examination, your doctor will examine the shoulder to look for obvious deformities of the arm, which looks like a “Popeye Muscle,” which is characteristic of a complete tear of the tendon. To diagnose partial tendon tears, your doctor will have you bend your arm and flex the biceps muscle. If you experience pain while flexing, there might be a partial tear. Your doctor will rule out other conditions during a physical exam, such as rotator cuff injuries, tendinitis and impingement. Imaging tests can help determine the extent of your injuries, such as an x-ray or MRI. MRIs are more useful, as they create images of the soft tissue and can help determine whether there is a partial or complete tear.

Biceps Tendon Tear Treatment

Nonsurgical Treatment

  • Ice or cold compress to reduce swelling.
  • NSAID medication to relieve pain or swelling.
  • Physical therapy to help with range of motion.

Surgical Treatment

If surgery is recommended there are several procedures that doctors can use to fix the problem. A common choice is to have an arthroscopic surgery to reattach the torn biceps tendon to the forearm bone. To do this repair, doctors will make a small incision in the forearm near the elbow, then, using a tiny camera and medical tools, they will remove any damaged tissue and clean the area that need to be fixed. Once the damage has been cleaned, surgeons will drill a few small holes into the bone of the forearm and attach the torn tendons to the holes using screws. After doctors are finished they will close the incision with stitches and bandage the area.


Like with any surgery, there are risks involved that patients need to be aware of:

  • Persistent weakness
  • Infection
  • Damage to the ulnar nerve
  • Blood vessel damage
  • Loss of strength
  • Death

Biceps Tendon Rupture

The bicep is a muscle that stabilizes the limb and allows the arm to bend at the elbow as well as letting the arm rotate. The biceps are attached by tendons over two joints, the shoulder and elbow. When a bicep tendon is torn at the shoulder, there is decreased arm strength and it can be very difficult to turn the arm. Biceps tendon tears are either partial or complete, but the most common damage is that the tendons are frayed. Many times this injury can be treated with non-surgery techniques. However, when surgery is required, it can be done arthroscopically or with a mini-open sub-pectoralis repair. During surgery the torn tendon will be anchored to the bone and any damaged tissue will be cleaned. It is important to talk with your doctor about which surgery is the best option for you.

Bicep Tendon Rupture Causes

When biceps tendons tear it is often caused by:

  • Falling hard with outstretched arms
  • Lifting something that is too heavy
  • Overuse by repeating the same motions

Bicep Tendon Rupture Symptoms

  • Sudden sharp pain in the upper arm
  • Hearing a pop or snap in the arm
  • Cramping of the biceps because of heavy use of the arm
  • Bruising in the middle of the arm
  • Weakness in the shoulder and elbow
  • Difficulty turning the arm palm up or palm down
  • A bulge in the upper arm above the elbow with a dent close to the shoulder

Bicep tears and ruptures can be incredibly painful. If you're suffering from a bicep injury, it's time you get real treatment. If you are interested in learning more about the causes and symptoms of bicep tendon tears and ruptures, as well as available treatment options, please call West Medical at (855) 690-0565 and one of our representatives will be happy to address any of your questions, comments, or concerns.

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