Causes of a biceps tendon tear include injury and overuse, according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. Injury to the biceps tendon can occur from falling on an outstretched arm or from lifting too heavy of an object, while a gradual wearing down of the biceps tendon occurs naturally with age and worsens with overuse. Tendinitis, shoulder impingement and rotator cuff injuries resulting from overuse put even more pressure on the biceps tendon, increasing the risk of a tear.
Symptoms of a biceps tendon tear include sharp pain in the upper arm, cramping of the biceps muscle, pain or tenderness around the upper arm, a bulge in the upper arm and difficulty rotating the palm, states the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. Besides age, the risk of a biceps tendon tear can increase with prolonged overheard activities, such as weight lifting or manual labor. The use of corticosteroids, overuse from sports and smoking are other risk factors.
Nonsurgical treatment is an option for patients who have suffered a biceps tendon tear without accompanying damage to the rotator cuff, explains the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. Pain often diminishes over time, and arm weakness may not be a problem for all patients. Physical therapy, ice, rest and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications are effective treatments in these cases. For patients who've suffered damage to critical structures surrounding the biceps tendon or those who want to return to pre-injury performance, surgery is necessary in order to reattach the tendon to the bone.