Biceps Tear

Overview

What Is a Biceps Tear?

A biceps tear – also called a biceps rupture – is a tear or break in the tendon that connects your biceps muscle in the upper arm to your shoulder or elbow.

Tendons are strong cords of tissue that connect muscles and bones. Over time, the much-used connections in the shoulder and elbow can begin to wear and eventually break.

Biceps ruptures are a common injury that we repair successfully with surgery. If you have a less serious biceps tear, you may only need nonsurgical treatments like ice, physical therapy or medication.

The Aurora Difference

Advanced Treatment for Biceps Tears

When your shoulder, arm or elbow hurts, you want to relieve the pain and get back to your usual activities as soon as possible. We have extensive experience in treating and repairing biceps injury, whether the cause is sports, an accident or regular wear and tear.

We offer:

  • Injury evaluation when you need it: We offer free injury evaluations so you can find answers and get on the road to recovery faster. Many of our facilities even offer same-day appointments. Request a free injury evaluation.
  • Convenient locations: With locations across eastern Wisconsin and northern Illinois, you can find everything from physical therapists to surgical experts close to home. See our locations.
  • Coordinated care: Your entire team will work together to guide you through your biceps tear treatment. Whether you need physical therapy, surgery or integrated care, we’ll coordinate our efforts to provide you with a seamless care experience. Meet our sports health team.

Symptoms & Causes

Causes of a Biceps Tear

A biceps tear or biceps rupture can happen suddenly or gradually. Biceps tears are most common among people between the ages of 40 and 60.

A biceps rupture is a complete tear of the tendon. In a biceps rupture, the biceps tendon breaks off from where it attaches the muscle to the top of the shoulder. A biceps rupture can happen because of an accident, like a sudden fall, or an activity, like lifting a weight.

A person who has another condition like a rotator cuff injury or shoulder impingement (when arm motion squeezes the shoulder tissue) is more likely to experience a biceps rupture.

Sometimes, another condition like a rotator cuff injury or tendonitis causes shoulder pain. Learn more about treatments for shoulder pain.

Symptoms of a Biceps Tear or Biceps Rupture

With a biceps rupture, most people report feeling or hearing a “pop” at the shoulder or elbow when the tendon breaks.

People also notice:

  • Severe pain that may go away after a few days
  • Bruising and sometimes swelling in that part of the arm
  • Shoulder and arm weakness
  • A bulge in one part of the upper arm – with a gap in the other part – because the muscle has bunched up in one section of the biceps
  • Weakness or difficulty rotating the forearm (the motion used to turn a screwdriver)

Diagnosis

Tests & Imaging for a Biceps Tear

During a physical exam, your doctor will check for pain, bruising and changes to your strength and range of motion.

If we suspect a biceps rupture, you may have additional tests including:

  • X-ray: On an X-ray of your shoulder or elbow, we can check for bone fractures or bone spurs (outgrowths of bone). Bone spurs can cause a tendon tear.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): MRI creates images of soft tissues (including muscles and tendons) and bones, using a powerful magnetic field and radio waves.

Learn more about orthopedic diagnosis.

Treatment

Treating a Biceps Tear

Your treatment for a biceps tear will depend on the type of injury and your lifestyle. Nonsurgical treatments work best for smaller tears or people who won’t be bothered by having less arm strength. In other cases, surgery might be the right path.

Nonsurgical Biceps Tear Treatments

Some biceps tears need only noninvasive treatments like medication and ice. Nonsurgical treatments focus on relieving pain and helping the arm function as well as possible, although you’ll probably experience some reduced strength in the biceps muscle itself.

Physical therapy can help strengthen the muscles that surround the biceps to compensate for the injury. Find out more about physical therapy.

Surgical Treatment for a Biceps Rupture

Other biceps tears or biceps ruptures require surgery. During a surgical repair, our orthopedic specialists will reattach the tendon to the bone at the shoulder or elbow.

Many of our orthopedic specialists offer arthroscopic surgery. In arthroscopic surgery, tiny cameras on surgical instruments guide the doctor who performs the procedure. This minimally invasive surgery makes it possible to heal from surgery faster, with less scarring.

After surgical repair and rehabilitation, people regain their full arm strength within a few months. Most people can return to their work, hobbies and interests – even tasks that require heavy lifting.

Learn more about Aurora’s orthopedic medicine and orthopedic surgery.

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