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Biceps tendon rupture

Medical reviewer:
Dr Ann Nainan
Dr Ann Nainan
Dr Adiele Hoffman
Dr Adiele Hoffman
Last reviewed: 21/05/2021
Medically reviewed

All of Healthily's articles undergo medical safety checks to verify that the information is medically safe. View more details in our safety page, or read our editorial policy.

In this article

What is a biceps tendon rupture?

A biceps tendon rupture is a tear in the strong cords of tissue (called tendons) that connect the muscles at the front of your upper arm (called biceps) to the bones in your shoulder and elbow.

What are the symptoms of a biceps tendon rupture?

When you tear your biceps tendon you may feel a sudden ‘pop’ either in your shoulder or at the front of your elbow. You may also have:

  • bruising
  • pain
  • swelling
  • arm weakness (trouble moving your arm)
  • a bulging muscle in the middle of your upper arm (known as a ‘popeye’ deformity)

You may also have shoulder pain for a while before your other symptoms appear.

Occasionally this pain gets better after the tendon tears.

How is a torn biceps tendon treated?

If you think you’ve torn your biceps tendon, go to a hospital or see a doctor immediately. There are a few things you can do to help your symptoms while waiting to see a doctor. These include:

  • taking painkillers or anti-inflammatories to help with the pain and swelling
  • applying ice to the area that hurts
  • using a compression bandage
  • resting your arm and stopping activities that are painful

Medical treatment may also include:

  • physiotherapy
  • a painkiller or steroid injection into the tendon

In some cases, you may need surgery, but this is more likely if you’ve torn your biceps tendon near your elbow.

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