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:
- Sharp pain in the arm
- Snapping sounds upon movement
- Muscle cramps
- Elbow tenderness
- Shoulder and elbow weakness
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
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.
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.
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.
4 Possible Conditions
The list below shows results from the use of our quiz by Buoy users who experienced bicep pain. This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.
1.Brachial Plexopathy (Shoulder Nerve Issue)
The brachial plexus is a complex nerve network located in the upper chest and shoulder region. Nerves can be explained as 'electric wires' of the body, passing through signals from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to the muscles. The brachial plexus is a bundle of nerves that lies deep to the collar bone, which supplies the shoulder, arm, forearm, and hand. When this bundle of nerves is (partially) damaged, one speaks of a 'plexopathy'. Several causes of damage can be injury or forceful trauma, inflammation or infection. A commonly known cause is sports injury in contact sports like football and rugby. Symptoms can include pain, burning, numbness and weakness in the shoulder and arm on one side, sometimes shooting through the arm to the hand. An acute (sports) injury that causes this condition is often called 'burners' or 'stingers' because of the burning and stinging type of pain. When the cause is inflammation of the nerves, it is often called the Parsonage-Turner syndrome.
The severity of this condition is highly variable, and dependent on the amount of damage caused to the nerves. Brachial plexus injury following surgery usually has a good prognosis. Recovery times range from 2 weeks to 2 years.
- Top Symptoms:
- pain in one arm, shoulder pain that shoots to the arm, arm weakness, numbness in one arm, shoulder pain
- Symptoms that never occur with brachial plexopathy (shoulder nerve issue):
- pain in the front middle part of the neck
- Primary care doctor
A bruise is the damage of the blood vessels that return blood to the heart (the capillaries and veins), which causes pooling of the blood. This explains the blue/purple color of most bruises. Bruises of the bicep are common due to minor injuries.
Bruises tend to begin healing within one week.
- Top Symptoms:
- constant upper arm pain, recent bicep injury, pain in one bicep, swelling of one arm, upper arm bruise
- Symptoms that always occur with bicep bruise:
- recent bicep injury, constant upper arm pain
Bicep Pain Symptom Checker
Take a quiz to find out why you’re having bicep pain.Bicep Pain Quiz
3.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.
Improvement during a 6-week treatment with antibiotics
- Top Symptoms:
- moderate fever, constant upper arm pain, spontaneous upper arm pain, 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
- Hospital emergency room
4.Repetitive Strain Injury of the Upper Arm
Repetitive strain injury of the upper arm is caused by consistent repetitive use.
Resolves with rest
- 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
Bicep Pain Treatments, Relief and Prevention
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.Did you recently experience an injury to the upper arm area?
- Q.Do you have any idea what may have caused your upper arm pain?
- Q.Does your pain continue into the night?
- Q.Have any of your muscles gotten much smaller (wasted away)?
If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, try our bicep pain symptom checker to find out more.Bicep Pain Quiz
Bicep Pain Symptom Checker Statistics
People who have experienced bicep pain have also experienced:
- 22% Pain in One Shoulder
- 8% Shoulder Pain
- 2% Pain in the Back of the Neck
People who have experienced bicep pain had symptoms persist for:
- 37% Over a Month
- 22% Less Than a Week
- 20% Less Than a Day
People who have experienced bicep pain were most often matched with:
- 60% Upper Arm Bone Infection (Osteomyelitis)
- 30% Brachial Plexopathy (Shoulder Nerve Issue)
- 10% Bicep Bruise
Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).