Conditions & Treatments

Rupture of the Biceps Tendon

The biceps tendon attaches the biceps muscle, which is responsible for flexing the forearm, to bone. One tendon attaches the biceps to the radius bone in the forearm, while another connects the long head of the biceps to the shoulder. Ruptures of the tendon attaching the biceps to the forearm are rarer and usually occur during falls on a bent arm. Ruptures of the tendon attaching the biceps to the shoulder are more common and are associated with long-term wear and tear in people over 40. Some signs and symptoms of tendon rupture are a sudden pain in the upper arm with or without a snapping sound, a bulge above the elbow (because the tendon no longer holds the muscle in place), bruising of the arm, and shoulder pain.

Your physician will wish to examine your arm and shoulder, checking in particular the bending movement of your arm. Sometimes an MRI or other diagnostic test may be necessary to look for possible additional injury. Surgery is not usually required; the typical treatment consists of rest, ice, anti-inflammatory drugs, and exercises as directed by your doctor.