Distal Biceps Tendon Tear

What is a Distal Biceps Tendon Tear?

      The main muscle on the front of the arm is the biceps. The biceps is involved in bending the elbow and rotating the forearm. The biceps muscle attaches to the forearm bone (radius) through a tendon, which acts like a rope at the end of the muscle. A distal biceps tendon tear occurs when the tendon detaches from the forearm bone. Because the biceps is responsible for strength and turning the forearm, biceps tendon tears result in pain and arm weakness. Distal biceps tendon tears are almost always caused by a sudden injury to the elbow. This can happen when lifting objects that are too heavy, resulting in the elbow being forced straight when the bicep is under tension. This tears the biceps muscle and tendon from the bone.

      The following symptoms may present:

        Distal Biceps Tendon Tear
            • Severe pain
            • Swelling
            • Bruising
            • A noticeable bulge in the upper arm

            Tears are categorized as partial or complete.

            What Causes a Distal Biceps Tendon Tear?

            Distal biceps tendon tears are usually caused by a sudden injury to the elbow. This can occur when a person tries to catch a heavy object or falls on their arm while in a flexed position.

              How are Tendon Tears Diagnosed?

              Distal biceps tendon tears are usually diagnosed with a physical exam. Dr. Donnelly may also recommend an X-ray to rule out any possible bone damage.

              Treatment Options

              Non Surgical

              Partial tears may successfully heal using nonsurgical treatment options. This treatment usually involves rest, a splint, and NSAIDs to control pain.


              Complete tears generally require surgical intervention. During a tendon repair procedure, Dr. Donnelly attaches the torn tendon to the bone using a special anchor and sutures. Surgery for a distal biceps tendon tear is minimally-invasive, allowing for maximum comfort and minimal recovery time.

              Recovery Time

              Following surgery, the elbow may need physical therapy in order to restore proper movement to the joint. Recovery time will depend on the severity of the injury.