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Biceps brachii: Muscle Pain & Trigger Points

The biceps brachii may be the source for tendonitis at your inner elbow, or for shoulder pain. It may even mimic a bursitis in your shoulder.

If you are a craftsman or an ambitious athlete you may suffer from trigger points, or tender areas in this muscle. Of course, other people can also suffer from these points.

1. Pain Patterns & Symptoms

1.1 Pain patterns

As you can see in the two pictures below, pain created by trigger points in your biceps brachii can radiate down to your elbow and to the front of your shoulder.

You even might experience pain at the side of your shoulder and/or your upper back.

This way your biceps may contribute to

The intensity of the red areas indicates how common pain in the respective zone is experienced when trigger points are present. The darker the red, the more common the pain is.

Visualization of the pain patterns

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1.2 Symptoms & complaints

If you suffer from trigger or tender points in this muscle, or if it is just very tight you might have difficulties and/or pain when…

  • … lifting your arm in front of you above shoulder level
  • … bending your arm
  • … abducting/spreading your arm

2. Attachment Points

The biceps has two muscle bellies. That is why it is named Biceps. There is a long one, the caput longum and a short one, the caput breve.

It has two attachment points at the shoulder, and one at the forearm.

  • At the shoulder, it inserts at the coracoid process, the bony knob you can feel at the front of your shoulder, and on the shoulder blade.
  • At the forearm, it attaches at the upper side of the radius.

 

3. Function of the Biceps Brachii

The biceps´ best known function is the flexion of the elbow.

When in a flexed position, the biceps brachii also supinates the hand, that is, it turns the palm upwards.

Furthermore, the short head – caput breve – of the biceps elevates the arm. The long head – caput longum – abducts the arm and rotates the shoulder inwards/medially.

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Flexion at the elbow

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Supination

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Flexion at the shoulder and anteversion, respectively.

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Medial rotation at the shoulder

4. Trigger Point Activation in the Biceps

Certain  activities and movements may lead to trigger points in the biceps.

If you are an athlete, especially a climber, swimmer or someone who exerts heavy throws – e.g. Baseball player –, you need to take care of this muscle.

Strong and/or repetitive supination of the hand, which occurs, for example, when torqueing a reluctant screw, can cause trouble.

If you are not used to these movements, or if you are not in a balanced muscular state, your biceps might cause problems.

5. Palpation of the Biceps Brachii Muscle

Finding this muscle is a no-brainer. Just pinch the muscle at the front of your upper arm and you will have the biceps brachii between your fingers.

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6. Biceps Brachii Self-massage

For the massage you can use a ball against a wall.

  • Place the ball on your upper arm, bend your knees and lean against a wall.
  • Roll over the muscle and search for tender muscle tissue.
  • Massage each point with 15 slow strokes and rolling motions, respectively.
  • Always concentrate on the most painful area, without maximizing the pain.
  • I also recommend experimenting a lot with your massage position.

References

  • Calais-German, Blandine. Anatomy of Movement. Seattle: Eastland Press, 1993. Print
  • Davies, Clair, and Davies, Amber. The Trigger Point Workbook: Your Self-Treatment Guide For Pain Relief. Oakland: New Harbinger Publications, Inc., Print
  • Simons, David G., Lois S. Simons, and Janet G. Travell. Travell & Simons’ Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: The Trigger Point Manual. Baltimore, MD: Williams & Wilkins, 1999. Print.
  • Schünke, Michael., Schulte, Erik, and Schumacher, Udo. Prometheus: Lernatlas der Anatomie. Stuttgart/New York: Georg Thieme Verlag, 2007. Print