What Would Cause My Bicep to Ache?

Reviewed on 8/17/2022

A man's bicep
Common causes of bicep ache or pain include biceps tendinitis, biceps contusion (bruising), brachial plexus injuries, and fractured humerus.

The bicep is the muscle located on the front part of the upper arm, between the elbow and shoulder. There are many causes of bicep aches and pains.

Some of the most common causes of bicep ache or pain include: 

  • Biceps tendinitis 
    • Inflammation or irritation of the upper biceps tendon 
    • Usually caused by wear and tear over time
  • Biceps contusion (bruising)
    • Most contusions are minor though some may cause deep tissue damage and lead to complications
    • Caused when a blow by a blunt object strikes the biceps, crushing underlying muscle fibers and connective tissue without breaking the skin
  • Brachial plexus injuries
    • The brachial plexus is a network of nerves in the arm and hand
    • Caused by forceful pulling or stretching of the arm by injuries such as motorcycle collisions (most common), falls, motor vehicle accidents, and knife and gunshot wounds 
  • Fractured humerus
    • A break in the upper arm bone
    • Often caused by a high-energy event, such as a direct blow to the elbow during a car accident or a fall 

What Are Symptoms of Bicep Aches?

Symptoms of bicep aches and pains can vary depending on the cause and may include: 

  • Aching, pain, or tenderness 
    • In the front of the shoulder
    • In the upper arm
    • That worsens with overhead lifting or activity
    • That moves down the upper arm bone
  • Weakness 
  • Bruising
  • Limited range of motion
  • Loss of movement in the shoulder, arm, or hand
  • Loss of feeling
  • Stiffness
  • A lump
  • A snapping sound or sensation in the shoulder
  • A "Popeye" bulge in the upper arm if there is a complete tendon tear

How Are Bicep Aches Diagnosed?

The cause of bicep aches and pains is diagnosed with a patient history and physical examination, in which the doctor will perform tests to check the function of the biceps and assess the shoulder for range of motion, strength, and signs of instability. 

Tests used to help diagnose the cause or extent of bicep aches and pains include: 

What Is the Treatment for Bicep Aches?

Treatment for bicep aches and pains depends on the cause. For many types of injuries, when the injury first occurs, use the RICE method: 

  • Rest: don’t perform activities that involve the biceps
  • Ice: to decrease pain, swelling, and redness
    • If an injury is iced immediately, it may prevent some inflammation
    • Use an ice pack or ice wrapped in a towel
    • Apply crushed ice for 15 to 20 minutes at a time, several times daily
  • Compression: to prevent inflammation
    • Use elastic wraps such as Ace bandages
    • Do not wrap too tightly
  • Elevation: prop up the affected arm to help reduce fluid buildup in the injured tissue

Treatment for bicep aches and pains due to biceps tendinitis may include: 

  • RICE method
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), and naproxen (Aleve) for pain and swelling
  • Steroid injections for pain and inflammation 
  • Physical therapy to stretch, strengthen, and restore range of motion 
  • Surgery, if the condition does not improve with nonsurgical treatment

Treatment for bicep aches and pains due to contusion (bruising) may include: 

  • RICE method
    • Do not massage the injured area
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) 
  • Surgical drainage of a large hematoma

Treatment for bicep aches and pains due to brachial plexus injury may not be needed and the injury may recover on its own within weeks to months When treatment is needed it may include surgery such as: 

  • Nerve repair
  • Nerve graft
  • Nerve transfer
  • Tendon and muscle transfer

Treatment for bicep aches and pains due to humerus fracture may include:

  • RICE method
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) 
  • Splint or sling 
  • Surgery

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Reviewed on 8/17/2022
References
REFERENCES:

Image source: iStock Images

https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases--conditions/biceps-tendinitis/

https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases--conditions/muscle-contusion-bruise/

https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases--conditions/brachial-plexus-injuries/

https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases--conditions/distal-humerus-fractures-of-the-elbow/