Bicep Muscle Strain

Two dumbbells and barbell side by side on concrete floor
A strength and conditioning program can help prevent a strained muscle. (Image: Thomas Northcut/Photodisc/Getty Images)

The biceps muscle is on the front part of the upper arm. The muscle is attached to the elbow and at two places in the shoulder. Inflammation of the long tendon, which runs over the top of the upper arm and attaches to the top of the shoulder blade, is fairly common for athletes.

Causes/Prevention

You can strain your biceps muscle in several ways. Extended use of the biceps muscle or tendons, extreme force applied to the muscle or extreme contraction of the triceps muscle can cause you to strain your biceps. Several risk factors also exist. People who participate in contact sports, throwing sports and weight lifting are more likely to strain their biceps, as are people with poor circulation, poor nutrition, previous upper-arm injuries and poor muscle conditioning. Warming up before physical activity and participating in a strengthening and conditioning program can help you prevent a strained muscle.

Types

Biceps strains are defined by their range of severity. A grade 1 strain is a minor overstretching or pulling of the biceps muscle or tendon. Such a strain involves no tearing of muscle or tendon fibers and results in no loss of strength. A grade 2 strain causes moderate tearing of the biceps muscle or tendon and may result in some loss of strength. A grade 3 strain is a severe or complete rupture of the biceps muscle or tendon and may require surgical repair.

Symptoms

Symptoms of a biceps strain include pain at the front of the shoulder, when pressing in on the tendon at the front of the shoulder and when moving your arm. Muscle spasms, swelling and loss of strength also may occur, depending on the severity of the strain.

Treatment

Treatment usually includes applying ice or heat, taking anti-inflammatory medication or injections and performing rehabilitation exercises. The type of treatment depends on several factors, including age and severity of injury. In severe cases, surgery may be required.

Recovery

Recovery time also depends on age, health, severity of injury and injury history. While a mild strain may only take a few days to heal, a more severe injury can take up to 10 weeks. Avoid doing any activities that cause pain, except for physical therapy prescribed by your health-care provider, until you are fully recovered. In most cases, a strain will not cause prolonged disability, but in severe cases, it can cause proneness to injury or prolonged disability.

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