A doctor examines a patient’s arm. A bicep tear is a common injury during exercise or sports activities caused by overuse. Biceps tears occur when there is a tear in the biceps tendon, causing fibers in the muscles of the arm to separate. If left untreated, it can cause permanent damage to the muscles and tendons of the upper arm.

A bicep tear can occur in any age group. Still, it is more common in people who are active and involved in repetitive motions, such as tennis players, golfers, baseball pitchers, weight lifters, and swimmers.

The EmergeOrtho—Triangle Region Elbow & Arm specialists provide expert care to help patients recover quickly and return to their daily activities. Understanding the different parts of the bicep will help convey why biceps tear, what types of bicep tears there are, the symptoms of a bicep tear, and how to treat and prevent a torn bicep.

Upper Arm Muscle Anatomy

Understanding the different parts of the bicep can help determine why a bicep tendon tear occurs. The shoulder is a ball-in-a-socket joint made up of three bones: the humerus, scapula, and clavicle. The head of the humerus fits into a rounded socket on the scapula. The socket is called the glenohumeral joint and is covered by cartilage. Arm muscles and ligaments hold the humerus in place, and tendons connect the muscles of the upper arm to the bones.

The head of the humerus fits into a rounded socket called the glenoid fossa. The head of the upper arm bone is attached to the shoulder blade by soft tissue structures called the deltoid tuberosity and the greater tubercle. The deltoid tuberosity attaches the

When a bicep tear happens, the torn portion of the tendon pulls away from the bone, causing the tendon to become loose.

Types of Bicep Tears

There are several types of bicep tears. A bicep tear can either be a partial tear, where only part of the tendon gets pulled off the bone, or a complete tear, which involves the entire tendon being pulled away from the bone.

Whether a partial or complete tear, the tendon will either get torn at the shoulder or the elbow. Microtears also can occur at either location. Depending on the severity of the tear will determine the recovery time.

Biceps Tendon Tear at the Shoulder

A tendon tear at the shoulder is referred to as a proximal biceps tendon rupture. This is the most common tendon tear in the bicep. Of the two bicep head tendons, the most common tendon to tear is the long head of the biceps tendon. With this bicep injury, most people can still function and heal with nonsurgical treatment. However, if a patient does nonsurgical treatments and the tear does not get better, a doctor may recommend surgery.

Biceps Tendon Tear at the Elbow

Also known as a distal biceps tendon rupture, this happens when the tendon at the elbow gets torn. This tear will have more weakness in the arm than a shoulder tear, and it does not heal on its own. However, the elbow can still bend, but there will be no strength to turn the palm up. Patients will need surgery for this bicep injury.


Better known as tendinitis, this occurs when the long head of the biceps tendon gets irritated or inflamed. This bicep injury causes pain and swelling. Tendinitis of the long head of the biceps tendon usually comes from gradual wear and tear, and repetitive use can make the injury worse.

Symptoms of a Torn Bicep

A bicep tear can happen over time or suddenly upon injury. They also may be associated with other injuries, such as a torn rotator cuff. Symptoms include:

  • A pop or snapping sound
  • Pain that may come and go
  • Bruising
  • Weakness in the arm and shoulder
  • Difficulty rotating the forearm
  • Tenderness in the shoulder and elbow

When meeting with a physician, the doctor will evaluate your injury and offer the best treatment option for your injury.

Treatment Options for Bicep Tears

Depending on the injury will determine your treatment options. The bicep injury can either be treated with nonsurgical measures or surgical intervention. In general, partial tears do not require surgical intervention unless they do not improve over time. If the tear is complete, however, surgical repair is needed.

Nonsurgical Treatment

Nonsurgical treatment is recommended if a bicep tear at the shoulder is not severe enough to warrant surgical repair. Bicep tears at the elbow typically need surgical treatment. Nonsurgical treatments include rest, ice, anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy, and stretching exercises. These treatments help reduce inflammation and promote healing. It takes about 6 weeks for a full recovery.

Surgical Repair

The surgeon will perform an open procedure or arthroscopic surgery if the tear is in the shoulder, if a bicep tear requires surgical repair. During the surgery, the surgeon will remove the damaged section of the tendon and reattach it back onto the bone. After surgery, the patient must follow specific guidelines to ensure proper healing. The patient must keep their arm immobilized for several days, work with a physical therapist, and avoid lifting heavy objects for at least 3 months.

Recovery after surgery varies depending on the type of bicep tear performed. For a complete tear, the patient should anticipate a recovery in 4 to 6 months.

Bicep Tear Injury Prevention Tips

To prevent a bicep injury, you can prepare your body properly for physical activity. Ways to avoid injury include:

  • Properly warm up your muscles before working out
  • Gradually increase exercise intensity
  • Use proper form
  • Avoid lifting heavy objects overhead
  • Cool down after working out

Though you can take preventative measures, that does not guarantee a bicep tear will not happen.

How EmergeOrtho—Triangle Region Can Help

If you are looking for treatment options or surgery for a torn bicep, EmergeOrtho—Triangle Region’s orthopedic specialists can use their years of knowledge and experience to give you the proper care for your bicep injury. Our patient-centered care will help you emerge stronger, healthier, and better. To meet with one of our experts, you can request an appointment, self-schedule an appointment, or call us at 984.666.2201.

Find an Elbow and Arm Specialist