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.
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.
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.
With a biceps rupture, most people report feeling or hearing a “pop” at the shoulder or elbow when the tendon breaks.
People also notice:
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:
Learn more about orthopedic diagnosis.
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.
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.
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.