Welcome to Buoy Health

Learn about your bicep pain, including causes, treatment options and remedies. Or get a personalized analysis of your bicep pain from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

Bicep Pain Checker

Take a quiz to find out why you’re having bicep pain.

Take a quiz
Your Bicep Pain May Also be Known as:
Aches and pains in bicep
Bicep ache
Bicep discomfort
Bicep hurts
Bicep is painful
Bicep soreness
He hurt his bicep
Hurt her bicep
Hurt his bicep

Bicep Pain Symptoms

Pain located between your shoulder and elbow can be labeled as bicep pain. The discomfort can sometimes radiate into your back and make it difficult to bend your elbow or flex those sweet muscles that you've been working on.

While it's typically not a major cause for concern, bicep pain annoying to say the least.

Signs of bicep pain include:

The bicep is a muscle located on the front portion of the upper arm. It's technically made up of two muscles, called the short head and the long head, but they work in tandem as one muscle.

Like most muscles, the bicep is attached to your bones with tendons. The bicep is one of the busiest muscles in the body, helping you complete a wide range of tasks throughout the day. If any of the included muscles or tendons are damaged, bicep pain is sure to make an appearance.

Bicep Pain Causes Overview

Bicep pain is usually caused by an injury related to working out or sports. But there are other causes to consider. Use the following guide to help you pinpoint the general cause of your bicep pain.

Traumatic causes of bicep pain:

The bicep muscles can tear from a shoulder or elbow injury. Sports-related injuries are common, especially if an athlete has to repeat a specific motion over and over, like a quarterback in football. Pushing the muscle too far during a strength training workout can also lead to bicep pain.

You don't need to be athletic to damage your bicep. Lifting a heavy box of books can traumatize the area or an awkward fall can tear a tendon. An injury can happen in a flash so always take precaution during difficult physical activities.

Medical causes:

Joint pain can occasionally translate to bicep pain. For those with heart conditions, pain in the bicep can signal medical concern. Those with anxiety disorders can also experience bicep pain if they clench their muscles to deal with the stress.

Other causes:

Steroid use falls under other causes of bicep pain. If needles are infected or shared, the bicep muscle itself can become infected. This is rare but possible.

Bicep pain can affect both men and women and people of all levels of fitness. The pain can slowly build with time or come on suddenly. If you have an idea of the cause of your discomfort, it's time to start looking into treatments.

Top 10 Bicep Pain Causes

  1. 1.Brachial Plexopathy

    The brachial plexus is a complex nerve network located in the upper chest deep to the collar bone, which supplies the shoulder, arm, forearm, and hand. Damage to the brachial plexus is usually due to mechanical injury or trauma, and can interfere with normal nerve function causing numbness, pain, and/or weakness.

    You should visit your primary care physician to discuss these symptoms. It is likely the doctor will perform a thorough physical exam, and in many cases refer you to a specialist, physical therapist, or both. A professional evaluation is very important, as surgical treatment might be required for a brachial plexus nerve injury.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    pain in one arm, shoulder pain that shoots to the arm, arm weakness, numbness in one arm, shoulder pain
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  2. 2.Rotator Cuff Tendonitis

    Impingement syndrome is a common shoulder condition seen in aging adults. The tendons of rotator cuff muscles, whose action is to rotate the arm such such as during a tennis swing, pass in a narrow space between two bones in the shoulder. When the space becomes too narrow, which can happen as a result of an overuse injury, pain may develop as the tendons rub against the bones.

    You should visit your primary care physician who will coordinate care with a muscle and bone specialist (orthopedic surgeon). Treatments for impingement syndrome involve rest, over-the-counter pain medication, steroid injections, physical therapy, and surgery in rare, serious cases.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    pain in one shoulder, dull, achy shoulder pain, shoulder pain that gets worse at night, difficulty moving the shoulder, shoulder pain from overuse
    Symptoms that always occur with rotator cuff tendonitis:
    pain in one shoulder
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  3. 3.Biceps Tendon Rupture

    The biceps is the muscle in the front of the upper arm. Its main action is to flex the arm. The biceps muscle collects in a tendon that inserts into the radius (one of the bones of the forearm). Sometimes, if lifting something heavy or rapidly putting weight on the arm, the biceps tendon may pull away from the bone. Biceps tendon ruptures are classified as either partial or complete ruptures, depending on if the tendon pulled away only somewhat, or completely.

    You should visit your primary care physician who will coordinate your care with a muscle and bone specialist (orthopedic surgeon). The treatment for biceps tendon rupture is surgery.

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    pain in one shoulder, pain in the front of the shoulder, spontaneous shoulder pain, dull, achy shoulder pain, shoulder pain that gets worse at night
    Symptoms that always occur with biceps tendon rupture:
    pain in the front of the shoulder, pain in one shoulder
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  4. 4.Biceps Tendonitis

    The biceps is the muscle in the front of the upper arm. Its main action is to flex the arm. The beginning of the muscle is a tendon that passes in front of the shoulder. Problems with the tendon can arise due to impingement (where the tendon gets compressed by surrounding structures) or inflammation due to overuse of the shoulder. People with this condition experience a deep, throbbing ache in the front of the shoulder.

    You should visit your primary care physician who will coordinate care with a physical therapist. First-line treatments for this condition involve rest from activity, physical therapy, and over-the-counter pain medication.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    pain in one shoulder, pain in the front of the shoulder, spontaneous shoulder pain, dull, achy shoulder pain, shoulder pain that gets worse at night
    Symptoms that always occur with biceps tendonitis:
    pain in the front of the shoulder
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  5. 5.Neuralgic Amyotrophy

    Hereditary neuralgic amyotrophy is a disorder characterized by episodes of severe pain and muscle wasting (amyotrophy) in one or both shoulders and arms. Neuralgic pain is felt along the path of one or more nerves and often has no obvious physical cause. The network of nerves involved in hereditary neuralgic amyotrophy, called the brachial plexus, controls movement and sensation in the shoulders and arms.

    You should visit your primary care physician who will likely coordinate care with a nerve specialist (neurologist). Treatment for this condition involves pain management with medication, as well as physical therapy.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    arm weakness, pain in the back of the neck, general numbness, severe shoulder pain, difficulty moving the shoulder
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

    Bicep Pain Checker

    Take a quiz to find out why you’re having bicep pain.

    Take a quiz
  6. 6.Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

    The carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway filled with ligament and bones at the base of your hand. It contains nerve and tendons. Sometimes, thickening from irritated tendons or other swelling narrows the tunnel and causes the nerve to be compressed. Symptoms usually start gradually, and as they worsen, grasping objects can become difficult.

    Early diagnosis and treatment are important to prevent permanent nerve damage. Your doctor will diagnose carpal tunnel syndrome with a physical exam and special nerve tests. Treatment includes resting your hand, splints, pain and anti-inflammatory medicines. If symptoms do not improve with these less invasive treatments, your physician may recommend surgery.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    spontaneous shoulder pain, hand weakness, wrist pain, pain in one hand, weakness in one hand
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  7. 7.Repetitive Strain Injury of the Upper Arm

    Repetitive strain injury of the upper arm is caused by consistent repetitive use.

    You do not need treatment, just rest from your overuse. Wearing a brace and physical therapy might be helpful.

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    upper arm pain from overuse, upper arm weakness, upper arm numbness
    Symptoms that always occur with repetitive strain injury of the upper arm:
    upper arm pain from overuse
    Symptoms that never occur with repetitive strain injury of the upper arm:
    upper arm injury, severe upper arm pain
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  8. 8.Upper Arm Bone Infection (Osteomyelitis)

    Osteomyelitis of the upper arm is a bacterial or fungal infection of the bone, typically caused by Staph Aureus (40-50% of the time). It is difficult to diagnose as the infection can come from a break in the skin at the area or anywhere else in the body that spreads by blood.

    You should seek immediate medical care at an ER, where diagnosis of osteomyelitis can be established through x-rays and culturing fluids. Treatment involves antibiotics and removing the infected tissue (by surgery).

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    constant upper arm pain, spontaneous upper arm pain, moderate fever, warm red upper arm swelling, painful surgical site
    Symptoms that always occur with upper arm bone infection (osteomyelitis):
    constant upper arm pain, spontaneous upper arm pain
    Urgency:
    Hospital emergency room
  9. 9.Repetitive Strain Injury of the Shoulder ("Swimmer's Shoulder")

    Repetitive strain injury of the shoulder is caused by consistent repetitive use.

    You do not need treatment, just rest from your overuse. Wearing a brace and physical therapy might be helpful.

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    shoulder pain from overuse, shoulder weakness, shoulder numbness
    Symptoms that always occur with repetitive strain injury of the shoulder ("swimmer's shoulder"):
    shoulder pain from overuse
    Symptoms that never occur with repetitive strain injury of the shoulder ("swimmer's shoulder"):
    severe shoulder pain, shoulder injury
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  10. 10.Frozen Shoulder (Adhesive Capsulitis of the Shoulder)

    Adhesive Capsulitis or "Frozen shoulder" is when the shoulder is painful and loses motion because of inflammation.

    You should go see your primary care doctor, who can diagnose your shoulder pain with a physical exam (x-rays aren't necessary). Treatment is pain management (NSAIDs), physical therapy, and injected corticosteroids to reduce inflammation in the shoulder.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    spontaneous shoulder pain, stiff shoulder, dull, achy shoulder pain, shoulder pain that gets worse at night, difficulty moving the shoulder
    Symptoms that always occur with frozen shoulder (adhesive capsulitis of the shoulder):
    stiff shoulder, spontaneous shoulder pain
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

Bicep Pain Treatments and Relief

Bicep pain usually goes away with rest and time. But some cases can be persistent and even dangerous. Here are some signs that it's time to schedule an appointment with your doctor regarding bicep pain.

  • Pain that doesn't improve over several weeks
  • Obvious deformity in the shape of the bicep area
  • Open or infected wounds
  • Experiencing other signs of heart distress, like dizziness or shortness of breath

Bicep pain can slow you down, but the discomfort can be managed with the following treatments. Make sure to review our preventative tips if bicep pain is a common occurrence for you.

Bicep pain treatments:

  • Ice Packs: Use cold packs or ice to reduce any swelling. Only leave ice on the area for 20 minutes at a time.
  • Medications: NSAIDs, such as Motrin or Advil, can help minimize discomfort. Just take care to not overwork the muscle, even if it's feeling better, when taking pain medication.
  • Rest: One of the best ways to alleviate bicep pain is resting the affected arm as much as possible. Don't compress the bicep or shoulder though.
  • Surgery: While rare, surgery is sometimes required to repair serious tears or damage within the bicep.

Preventive measures for bicep pain:

  • Take things slow when doing physical activities. If completing strength training, only move up in weight when you are truly ready.
  • Practice proper posture when performing exercises or playing sports. Proper form will not only help you perform better but can also reduce your chances of injury.
  • Try avoiding or at least changing any physical activity that may trigger bicep pain.

Bicep pain can make it difficult to enjoy your day. But by treating the pain and preventing further injury, you can start using your arms as intended.

FAQs About Bicep Pain

Here are some frequently asked questions about bicep pain.

What does it feel like to tear your bicep?

The biceps actually consist of two muscle groups. If you tear the long head of the biceps, you may experience shoulder pain, and if you are lifting a weight your arm may "give out" and drop whatever load it is carrying. If you tear the short head of the biceps, you may experience acute elbow pain followed by weakness. This would typically occur after a relatively forceful biceps contraction. A muscle after a biceps tear may look swollen, classically referred to as a "Popeye" deformity named after the cartoon character whose biceps bulged after eating spinach.

Why do I have sudden bicep pain for no reason?

Sudden biceps pain may be caused by injury to the tendon, underlying bone, or a tear of muscle fibers. Sudden sharp pain is abnormal while weightlifting and should be evaluated. Often this bicep pain coincides with motion and is caused by an injury to or straining of the tendon. Individuals that tear a bicep tendon will also report hearing a pop in conjunction with tearing a tendon. Unprovoked bicep pain is uncommon and can be caused by sporadic but rare cramps.

What are the symptoms of bicep tendonitis?

Classically, patients with biceps tendonitis will experience pain in the front of the shoulder and the pain will worsen at night. The pain may increase with physical activities such as pulling, repetitive overhead reaching, and lifting. Usually, tendinopathy is chronic and symptoms develop slowly overtime. If it becomes worse, it may cause a tendon rupture, in which the tendon is torn and the ability of the muscle to lift its attached structure is completely lost.

How long does it take to recover from a bicep strain?

Biceps strain occur commonly during exercise and usually only takes a few days to recover. Chronic tendinopathy may take 4–8 weeks to recover, depending on how thoroughly one refrains from rest. Biceps tendonitis and muscle rupture may also be severe and have a significant threat of functional limitation if untreated. Biceps muscle tears may require surgery, and emergent medical evaluation is necessary for individuals requiring a high degree of biceps function (professional weightlifters, construction workers, etc.)

How long does it take to for a torn bicep to heal?

After suffering a biceps tear, common treatment includes ice, compression, and muscle rest. Usually a few weeks time is sufficient to return to function unless surgery is indicated. If a patient undergoes surgery, recovery is dictated by the surgeon, but is often 1–5 weeks long. Each individual and surgery is different, however, and the degree of the tear and mechanism of the surgery will dictate the time to a full recovery.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Bicep Pain

  • Q.Is your upper arm pain constant or come-and-go?
  • Q.How long has your upper arm pain been going on?
  • Q.How long has your shoulder pain been going on?
  • Q.How severe is your shoulder pain?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, check our bicep pain symptom checker.

Take a quiz

Bicep Pain Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced bicep pain have also experienced:

    • 25% Pain in One Shoulder
    • 11% Shoulder Pain
    • 4% Pain in One Arm
  • People who have experienced bicep pain had symptoms persist for:

    • 40% Over a Month
    • 21% Less Than a Week
    • 17% Less Than a Day
  • People who have experienced bicep pain were most often matched with:

    • 41% Brachial Plexopathy
    • 12% Rotator Cuff Tendonitis
    • 10% Biceps Tendon Rupture

Bicep Pain Checker

Take a quiz to find out why you’re having bicep pain.

Take a quiz