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Demystifying Distal Biceps Tears: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Demystifying Distal Biceps Tears: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Demystifying Distal Biceps Tears: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

In this blog post, we'll explore the anatomy of the distal biceps tendon, the causes of distal biceps tears, common symptoms, and available treatment options.

Anatomy of the Distal Biceps Tendon

The distal biceps tendon connects the biceps muscle to the radius bone in the forearm, allowing us to flex the elbow and rotate the forearm. This tendon is critical for everyday activities that involve lifting, gripping, and bending the elbow.

Causes of Distal Biceps Tears

  • Trauma: The most common cause of a distal biceps tear is a sudden, forceful injury, often occurring when lifting heavy objects or during intense weightlifting exercises. This can result in a partial or complete tear of the tendon.
  • Chronic Overuse: Over time, repetitive stress and strain on the tendon, especially in activities like weightlifting or certain manual labor jobs, can weaken the tendon, making it more susceptible to tears.


  • When a distal biceps tear occurs, individuals typically experience:
    • Sudden, severe pain in the elbow and forearm.
    • Swelling and bruising around the elbow.
    • Weakness in the affected arm, particularly during activities that require elbow flexion or forearm rotation.
    • A noticeable bulge or deformity in the upper forearm, often referred to as the "Popeye sign."


To diagnose a distal biceps tear, a healthcare professional will conduct a physical examination to assess strength and range of motion. Imaging tests like MRI or ultrasound may be ordered to confirm the diagnosis and determine the extent of the tear.

Treatment Options

  • Non-Surgical Approach: Partial tears or tears in less active individuals may respond well to non-surgical treatments, including rest, ice, anti-inflammatory medications, and physical therapy. These methods can help reduce pain and improve function.
  • Surgical Intervention: Complete tears often require surgical repair. During surgery, the torn tendon is reattached to the bone, typically using sutures or anchors. Post-surgery rehabilitation is crucial to regain strength and function gradually.


Distal biceps tears can be painful and debilitating, but with the right treatment, recovery is possible. Whether through non-surgical or surgical approaches, seeking prompt medical attention is key to regaining full arm function and returning to your regular activities. Always consult with a healthcare professional for personalized advice and treatment options if you suspect a distal biceps tear.

Dr. Weber and his team treat many Los Angeles athletes and weekend warriors with distal bicep tears each year. We provide personalized treatment for all elbow injuries from professional athletes to high school recreational players to weekend warriors. If you are a patient with a bicep injury in Los Angeles, please reach out. We can see you within 24 hours.

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