What Causes Bicep Pain?

Woman flexing her arm muscles
Your biceps muscles, located in the upper front part of your arm, are often used to show off a muscular physique. (Image: Design Pics/Design Pics/Getty Images)

Your biceps are one pair out of more than 600 muscles in your body that contract to move your bones. Tendons connect your biceps to your bones at your shoulder and elbow joints. Bicep pain is attributed to problems with the shoulder joint, elbow joint, or the bicep muscle.

Location and Action

Located in the front of your arm between your shoulder and elbow, your bicep is a split muscle that works in isolation and assists your back muscles. The primary action is to flex, or bend your elbow, bringing your forearm toward your upper arm. In addition, your biceps help your back pull things toward you and helps lift your upper arm. A secondary bicep movement is to supinate or turn your wrist bringing your palm up. Basic bicep exercises include curls and pull-ups or chin-ups.

Muscle Soreness

Delayed onset muscle soreness is defined by pain and stiffness occurring 24 to 48 hours after training. Pain may be due to swelling caused by microscopic muscle tears. It is during the recovery phase that gains in muscle strength and size occur. DOMS can be caused by starting a weight training program after inactivity or by increasing training intensity through adding higher amounts of resistance, repetitions or exercises. Increasing the lengthening or eccentric phase of an exercise can also result in DOMS. DOMS will diminish when your body begins to get used to the training changes with subsequent workouts.

Muscle Cramps

Muscle cramps are involuntary contractions resulting in pain with movement. The most common cause of muscle cramps is dehydration, a depletion of body fluids and minerals in your body. Cramping can also occur with improper training techniques such as gripping a dumbbell or barbell too tightly or improper breathing. Additional causes are overuse and injury. Treatment for bicep muscle cramps include heat initially then ice, stretching and massage. In some cases, medication can be prescribed.

Bicep Tendonitis

Tendonitis is defined by an inflammation to the tendons, connecting the muscle to the bone. The most common type of bicep tendonitis occurs in the upper arm where the bicep is connected to your shoulder joint. Common causes include overuse due to the repetitive movement of sports utilizing throwing or swinging motions. Symptoms include pain, swelling, discoloration, muscle weakness and joint instability. Left untreated, bicep tendonitis can lead to a full tear or rupture of the muscle and tendon. Treatment includes immobility, ice, medication, rehabilitation and in some extreme cases, surgery.

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