Sore biceps may result from an overuse injury, such as lifting overhead at work. Athletes in sports like baseball or swimming may also experience biceps pain. These biceps stretches will improve your flexibility and reduce injury risk, so include them in your workout routine.
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What Causes Sore Biceps?
When you're experiencing lower biceps pain or pain in the middle of your biceps, you may be wondering if there was one specific incident that caused it. That is rarely the case, says the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS).
Although there are cases where someone can rupture a biceps tendon from lifting something extremely heavy, most cases are the result of a repetitive injury that wears down the biceps tendon over time. This is called biceps tendonitis.
Jobs or activities that require repetitive overhead motion, such as lifting objects off a shelf or even repeatedly placing a child in the car seat in an SUV or truck, may also cause inflammation to the biceps tendon.
Certain sports, such as swimming, weightlifting, tennis or throwing sports like baseball, may also increase the risk of developing sore biceps or biceps tendonitis. Furthermore, the AAOS points out that tendons weaken over time, making you more susceptible to injury.
Location of Biceps Pain
More people will experience pain in the middle of the biceps or near the shoulder rather than lower biceps pain, notes the Cleveland Clinic. To understand why, it's important to know a thing or two about the anatomy of the biceps muscle.
The biceps brachii muscle has two heads, with the long head originating above the shoulder joint at the supraglenoid tubercle and the short head originating at the top of the scapula at the coracoid process, says the AAOS. The muscle goes down the front of your arm and joins together to attach at the elbow. This means the biceps controls movement at your elbow (bends your elbow), helps rotate your palms up (supinates) and assists your shoulders in lifting your arms.
For those who have pain in the middle of the biceps or near the shoulder, the pain is likely a result of inflammation or tendonitis affecting the part of the biceps that attaches to the shoulder joint, says the Cleveland Clinic. This pain may occur from lifting overhead or playing sports like baseball.
Lower biceps pain is often felt at the inside portion of the elbow where the biceps inserts. It's not common, but it may result from holding something too heavy for a prolonged period or catching something heavy that has fallen.
Regardless of where you feel biceps pain, it's recommended to allow your arm to rest from that activity and use cold packs or ice to reduce inflammation. Anti-inflammatory medications like aspirin or ibuprofen may also help relieve swelling and pain, notes the Cleveland Clinic.
If the pain increases, you have bruises along your biceps or notice a change in the appearance of your muscle (a knot or bulge), then you might have a biceps tear. See your doctor for further testing and follow up.
How to Stretch Your Biceps
Your muscles need to be warmed up before you stretch to prevent injury. Do a warm-up consists of light jogging, walking or biking for at least five to 10 minutes.
The Mayo Clinic recommends holding each stretch for about 30 seconds and repeating two to four times. Use smooth movements and don't bounce as this may cause injury. Stretch and hold until you feel tension, not pain.
The National Academy of Sports Medicine advises using self-myofascial release followed by static stretching to fully reap the benefits. To do this, apply gentle pressure on the tender spot on your biceps and hold for at least 30 seconds. Follow that up with the stretch and hold for 30 seconds. Repeat one to three times.
Best Biceps Stretches
The following biceps stretches will improve flexibility and mobility and may help prevent injury.
Seated bent-knee biceps stretch: Sit on the floor, with your knees bent and your feet placed flat. Extend your arms behind you, with the palms flat on the floor and your fingers pointed away from your body. Slide your bottom forward toward your feet without moving your hands. You will feel a stretch in your biceps and front shoulder.
Standing biceps stretch: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Extend one arm in front of you, with the palm facing up. Gently pull back your hand until you feel the stretch along your biceps.
Biceps wall stretch: Place your straightened arm on a wall. Rotate your body in the opposite direction, keeping your arm straight, until you feel a stretch in your biceps.
Shoulder extension stretch: In a standing position, hold your arms out parallel to the ground with your palms facing out. Stretch the arms as far back as possible until you feel the stretch in your biceps and chest. For a deeper stretch, interlace your fingers behind you as you straighten your arms.
Spider walking stretch: Spider walk your fingertips up the wall to the front and to the side for a gentle biceps stretch that also improves range of motion.
Read more: Biceps Curls That Won't Cause Tendonitis
In addition to stretching, incorporate biceps strengthening exercises into your program for optimal muscle performance and conditioning.
Is This an Emergency?
- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: "Biceps Tendinitis"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Biceps Tendon Injuries"
- Mayo Clinic: "Stretching: Focus on Flexibility"
- National Academy of Sports Medicine: "Is Static Stretching The Best Strategy For Injury Prevention and Performance Enhancement?"
- American Council on Exercise: "Seated Bent-Knee Biceps Stretch"
- University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health: "Stretching Exercises"
- Tufts Medical Center: "Biceps Tendon Injury Exercise"
- The Nemours Foundation: "Proximal Biceps Tendonitis"