Biceps Tendon Tears

  • Diagnosis
  • Non-operative Options
  • Operative Options
  • Before Your Surgery
  • After Your Surgery
  • Your Rehab

What is the Biceps Tendon?

Your biceps muscle is attached to the shoulder joint through tendons forming two heads, a long head and short head.

Causes of Biceps Tendon Rupture

Overuse and injury of the biceps muscle during weightlifting or any repetitive physical activity causes fraying and eventual long head biceps tendon rupture. It can also occur due to falling on an outstretched arm.

Risks Factors for Biceps Tendon Rupture

The risk factors for long head biceps tendon rupture include:

  • Old age
  • Repetitive overhead activities
  • Smoking
  • Corticosteroid medication use

Types of Biceps Tendon Rupture

Tears of the biceps tendon may be either:

  • Partial tears
  • Complete tears

Symptoms of Biceps Tendon Tear

The symptoms that may occur with biceps tendon rupture include:

  • A popping sound
  • A snapping sensation
  • Pain with overhead activity
  • Weakness in the shoulder
  • Bruising in the upper arm

Diagnosis of Biceps Tendon Tear

Your doctor diagnoses a biceps tendon rupture after observing your symptoms and taking a medical history. A physical exam is performed where your arm is moved in different directions in order to see which movements elicit pain or weakness. Imaging studies such as X-rays may be ordered to assess for bony deformities such as spurs, which may have caused the tear. An MRI scan can help determine if the tear is partial or complete.

  • After Surgery Video
  • Shoulder and Elbow Steroid Injection Video
  • Physical Therapy Intro
  • Shoulder and Elbow Steroid Injection


Nonsurgical treatment includes:

Rest: A sling is used to rest the shoulder and you are advised to avoid overhead activities and heavy lifting until healed.

Ice: Applying ice packs for 20 minutes at a time, 3 to 4 times a day, helps reduce swelling.

Medications: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines help reduce pain and swelling.

Physical Therapy: Strengthening and flexibility exercises help restore strength and mobility to the shoulder joint.

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Surgery may be necessary if your symptoms are not relieved by conservative measures and if you are an athlete and require full restoration of strength. Your surgeon makes an incision near your shoulder where the tendon is torn. The torn end of the tendon is cleaned, and the bone is prepared by creating drill holes. Sutures are woven through the holes, and the tendon to secure it back to the bone and hold it in place. The incision is then closed and a dressing applied.

After Surgery Video
Before Surgery Video


Once you and your doctor decide that surgery will help you, you will need to learn what to expect from the surgery and how to actively participate in the treatment plan for the best results afterward.

Preparing mentally and physically for surgery is an important step toward a successful result. Understanding the process, and your role in it, will help you recover more quickly and have fewer problems.

Before surgery, your doctor will perform a complete physical examination to make sure you don’t have any conditions that could interfere with the surgery or the outcomes.

  • Routine tests, such as blood tests and X-rays may be performed.
  • Discuss any medications you are taking with your doctor as you may have to stop or alter your intake before surgery. If you are taking aspirin or anti-inflammatory medications or any drugs that increase the risk of bleeding, you will need to stop taking them one week before surgery to minimize bleeding.
  • Discuss with your doctor about preparing for potential blood replacement, medical interventions and other treatments prior to surgery.
  • Report any infections to your surgeon. Surgery cannot be performed until all infections have cleared up.
  • If you smoke, you should stop or cut down as smoking interferes with wound healing and can affect your recovery.
  • Have someone available to take you home, as driving is not recommended for at least 24 hours or as advised.
  • You may need help with everyday tasks such as cooking, shopping and laundry.
  • Put items that you use often within easy reach, so you won’t have to stretch and bend as often.
  • After Surgery Video
  • Shoulder Surgery Recovery Video
  • After Surgery Video
  • Shoulder Surgery Recovery Video


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Related Topics

  • Works at
  • Member of
  • orthopaedic traumatology service
  • Health Partners
  • university of minnesota
  • TRIA Orthopaedic Center
  • American Shoulder And Elbow Surgeons
  • Orthopaedic Trauma Association (OTA)
  • AO North America
  • Scapula Institute
  • Minnesota Orthopaedic Society
  • american academy of prthopaedic surgeons