What Are Biceps Tendon Tears?

What are biceps tendon tears?

In cases of serious or constant overuse, a tendon may fray and eventually tear. A tendon can also tear as part of an injury, such as moving or twisting your elbow or shoulder in an awkward way, or falling down with your arm outstretched. At the elbow, the bicep tendon most often tears during the act of lifting a heavy object (for example, a couch or a refrigerator).

A biceps tendon tear can happen at either the shoulder or the elbow. A tear can also be complete or partial. A complete tear means the tendon has torn away from the bone.

What are the symptoms of a biceps tendon tear?

The most obvious symptom will be a sudden, severe pain in the upper part of your arm or at the elbow, depending on where the tendon is injured. You may hear or feel a “pop” when a tendon tears. Other signs that you may have torn a biceps tendon can include:

  • Sharp pain at the shoulder or elbow.
  • A bruise that appears on the upper arm or forearm near the elbow.
  • A feeling of weakness in the shoulder or elbow.
  • Trouble rotating your arm from a “palm down” to a “palm up” position.
  • A change in the contour of the front of your bicep in the upper arm (“Popeye muscle”).

While surgery may be needed to fix a torn tendon, in many cases people with a torn tendon can still function normally. Symptoms can be relieved using the same treatments that are used to treat tendonitis. Tears at the level of the elbow more often require operative repair.