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The biceps are the muscles on the front of the upper arm. Biceps consists of a “short head” and a “long head” that work as a single muscle. The biceps is attached to the arm bone through the connective tissue of the tendons.
The tendon that connects the biceps muscle to the shoulder joint in two places is called the proximal biceps tendon. The tendon that attaches the biceps muscle to the forearm bone (radius and ulna) is called the distal biceps tendon.
When contracting, the biceps pull the forearm up and rotate the forearm outward.
The lateral head begins at the humerus, superior to the radial gap. The medial head, starting at the humerus, is inferior to the radial gap. Distally, the heads are joined to form one tendon and enter into the ulna olecranon.
The function of the triceps muscle is to extend (straighten) the arm at the elbow (as opposed to working the biceps muscle).
Symptoms Biceps and Triceps Injury
Tears of the upper arm muscles can be very painful. The specific symptoms depend on the severity of the strain that occurs.
Symptoms of common biceps or triceps strains:
sudden sharp pain in the upper arm (front – biceps; back – triceps) during exercise – most often felt in resistance activity (eg, heavy lifting on a curling motion) and possibly accompanied by a “popping” sensation.
2. spasm or stiffness in the affected muscle
3. swelling and pain
4. bruising to a sore arm, elbow, or forearm muscle (this indicates a damaged blood vessel)
5. overall upper arm weakness
6. there is a gap or irregularity in the shape of the muscle (if the tear is severe or the muscle has ruptured). Remember that the biceps and triceps muscles can be detached. In this case, you may see a ball (lump) of muscle because there is no outside force keeping the muscles extended.
Causes Biceps and Triceps Injury
Muscle strains and tears occur most commonly as a result of eccentric contractions. This contraction occurs when the muscle is tensing in one direction and at the same time there is a force against the tension. When these external forces resist tension or contraction, muscle strains or tears can occur.
Biceps tearing generally occurs when the biceps muscle is fully extended and receiving too much tension.
Separate exercises such as preacher curls can increase the likelihood of tearing of the biceps muscle as a result of the tension the biceps is receiving – especially when using very heavy weights, and not applying sufficient warmth.
Like biceps injuries, triceps injuries are something that can happen to everyone when exercising too much weight without warming up enough.
Injuries can be caused by one event (eg holding too much weight) or slowly over time (eg excessive weight, overtraining, insufficient warm-up, insufficient healing time, or poor technique).
There are a number of reasons for pulling the biceps or triceps muscles, including:
1. trying to lift weights too heavy
2. too tired or insufficient warm-up before resistance or strength training activities
3. lack of muscle flexibility pressure due to repetitive motion (such as throwing or hitting a ball)
4. bad power
5. overstretching muscles (pushing muscles past their threshold of tension)
6. sudden pressure on the forearm when the upper arm contracts impact from outside
Treatments Biceps and Triceps Injury
The most accepted approach is the RICE (Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate) technique which is usually accompanied by anti-inflammatory drugs to treat pain. This is best done within the first 36 hours of injury. This technique will reduce swelling, which will aid in the healing process.
For minor muscle tears, the treatment program for biceps and triceps injury physiotherapy which include movement exercises. In severe cases, surgery may be needed to repair muscle tears.
The best advice is to consult a doctor immediately if you think you have a biceps or triceps muscle tear, continuing to exercise even though you feel the pain can cause permanent damage.
As the healing period progresses, start light exercise. Exercise will improve circulation, and help ensure that newly formed muscles are oriented properly.
Overall, light exercise will limit scarring and speed up the healing process. Even so, don’t overuse your arms too quickly.