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. In some cases these tears are treated surgically depending on the circumstances of the patient.
In cases of serious or constant overuse, a tendon may fray and be more susceptible to 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 (eg, a refrigerator).
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
- A feeling of weakness in the shoulder or elbow
- Trouble rotating your arm from a “palm up” to a “palm down” position
- A change in the contour of the front of your arm
Also, a bulge may appear in your arm, because the tendon is no longer holding the muscle in place properly. This is often referred to as a “Popeye” deformity.
For partial tears of the biceps tendon, regenerative-type injections (such as platelet-rich plasma [PRP]) can stimulate the body’s own natural healing response and lead to resolution of the partial tear.