Biceps Tendon Tears at the Elbow

Personalized Treatment to Restore Strength and Mobility to Your Arm

Complete Distal Biceps Tendon Tears

The biceps muscle in the arm has a tendon that attaches to the shoulder socket and to the elbow on the bottom end to a bone called the radius. Depending on the location of the biceps tendon tear, patients may experience pain in the shoulder or in the elbow.

Tears to the biceps tendon where it attaches to the elbow can occur from a sports injury or from lifting a heavy object where the arm is bent but then forcefully straightened by something.

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Partial Biceps Tears

A partial tear can occur from overuse over many years or from a sudden injury. In many cases the tendon is already damaged before it tears.

Distal Biceps Tendonitis

The biceps tendon where it attaches in the elbow can develop tendonitis from overuse or repetitive activities. The tendon and surrounding tissue becomes inflamed and painful.
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Treatment of Distal Biceps Tendonitis and Tears

Initial treatment for tendonitis, as for most overuse conditions, includes, rest, ice, anti-inflammatory medications and stretching exercises. If the condition does not resolve, physical thera[y may be prescribed. Cortisone injections are not given in this area as they can weaken the tendon.

Complete tears of the tendon requires surgery to reattach it back to bone to allow full use and function after recovery. This is an outpatient surgery performed with a small incision. Afterwards, a hinged brace may be prescribed to help regain range of motion. Home exercises are provided for motion and strength. In some cases, physical therapy is needed prior to heavy lifting or sports activities.

Partial biceps tendon tears can be treated with or without surgery depending on the tear size. If the tear involves more than 50% of the tendon, then surgery is generally the best option to prevent it from tearing completely. If the biceps tendon is torn less than 50%, then initial treatment includes, rest, ice, anti-inflammatory medications and stretching exercises. Surgery may still be needed if the symptoms don’t go away.