An upper arm muscle tear can be quite painful. The specific symptoms you’ll experience with a pulled biceps or triceps depends upon the severity of the strain.
Common symptoms of a strained biceps or triceps include:
- sudden, sharp pain in the upper arm (front – biceps; back – triceps) during exercise – most usually felt resistance activities (e.g., lifting weights in a curling motion) and potentially accompanied by a “popping” feeling.
- a spasm or stiffness in the affected muscle
- swelling and tenderness
- bruising in the affected arm muscle, elbow, or forearm (indicates blood vessels have been broken)
- overall weakness in your upper arm
- gap or irregularity in the affected muscle (if the tear is severe or you ruptured the muscle). Note that biceps and triceps can also detach. In these cases, you may see a ball of muscle fiber since there is no outside force to keep the muscle elongated.
Injuries can be caused from a one-time event (e.g., too much weight at one time) or gradually over time (e.g., excessive weight, overtraining, not enough warm up, not enough recovery time, or poor technique).
There are numerous possible causes of a pulled biceps or triceps muscle, however, let’s take a look at some of the most common causes:
- attempting to lift too heavy of weight
- being overtired or not warming up prior to resistance or strength training activity
- lack of flexibility in the muscles
- repetitive motion stress (e.g., throwing, striking, or hitting a ball)
- poor strength
- overstretching the muscle (pushing the muscles past their tension threshold)
- sudden stress on the lower arm while contracting the upper arm.
- impact to the muscles by an outside force
Men over the age of 35 are more at risk for biceps and triceps strains than any other category of individual.
You have more of a chance of pulling a muscle when you are fatigued or not yet warmed up.