Do you find that despite great effort to relieve your shoulder tension and pain, it never gets to the core of the problem? If so, let's shed some light on a common muscle that surreptitiously surprises you with a chronic ache to the anterior shoulder - today I'm focusing in on the very influential, biceps brachii muscle.
Common Signs & Symptoms
- Forward head posture
- Rounded shoulders
- Protracted shoulder blades
- Neck stress, tension and pain
- Shoulder stress, tension and pain
- Numbness and tingling to the arm
- Headache & migraines - Sharp pain to the front of the shoulder
Anatomy of The Biceps Brachii
The biceps is comprised of two portions, the short head and the long head. These begin independently with two distinct tendons for each belly attaching to the scapula (shoulder blade) and blend into a single tendon that attaches to the forearm.
As it crosses over two joints, this means it's function is to flex the elbow, supinate (rotate the forearm to a palm up position) the hand and assist in raising the arm overhead.
Clinically, although I rarely have a patient ask for this muscle to be massaged, it is usually crying out for some TLC because we extensively use it throughout our day, especially on our more dominant arm. Let's go a little deeper.
Naughty Biceps Posturally speaking, most everything we do each day involves moving forwards, and looking forward and downward, and this is happening habitually from a young age. Fortunately, at a young age we express ourselves through movement, whether that's our physical education at school, our extra curricular activities or we just want to play with our friends. This helps us maintain a healthy, balanced body. As we age though, and especially in today's world with the desire to have a handheld device, we start to program our body to migrate once again to more of a fetal posture - bending and rounding forward.
Inherently, this is not a problem. The spine is designed to be able to do this movement. The problem, as I share in my book The 15-Step Playbook for Pain Relief, is the dose that makes the poison. If we are investing more time into these postures we are developing imbalances in our muscles, which create long-weak and short-tight groups. Chronically, this becomes postural debt which leads to signs and symptoms from the body to alert you of the imbalances. Eventually, if you are not listening to your body it will bombard you with pain to really get your attention!
Prevention, using my 5-step method, becomes key. Hopefully, if you are already doing the same for yourself financially for the day you wish to retire in life, my highest recommendation is to consider your future self that wishes to retire with a healthy, happy body, so you can continue to do the things that you love, with the people you love.
Considering the attachment points of the biceps, the more time that you are in a posture with your elbow bent (e.g. using your phone, computer mouse, typing), you are placing the biceps muscle into a shorter position. That is the two ends of the muscle are getting closer together. At the same time, one of it's antagonist muscles, the triceps brachii, is being lengthened, as it's two ends are being separated further apart.
Essentially, what this means is that we are developing more postural debt - the biceps muscle becomes habitually shorter and tighter and the triceps muscle becomes longer and weaker. As this continues to happen, the biceps levers on the shoulder blade, effectively pulling the shoulder forward, downward and placing more pressure to the anterior of the shoulder and upper arm. If left unaddressed, this can lead to biceps tendinitis or tendinosis, frozen shoulder, and other rotator cuff problems.
The solution is to pay down this postural debt using my 5-step method!
Restoring Balance in 5-Steps
Move - increase your body temperature and blood flow to all your muscles.
MASSAGE - using a partner, lacrosse ball or foam roller to agitate the muscles.
Mobilize - move the joints in their full range of motion.
Stretch - focus on lengthening the short-tight (hypertonic) muscles.
Strengthen - focus on strengthening the (hypotonic) long-weak muscles.
This week I shared one of the simplest and fastest way to massage your biceps.
My prescription is to perform this massage often to help pay down your postural debt due to overuse of some muscles and inactivation of others. Remember intensity is the shortcut to results. In this case, the intensity comes from the depth of pressure and massage duration.
I suggest the following:
MAJOR SYMPTOMS - Massage 3-5 minutes, 3 times a day.
MINOR SYMPTOMS - Massage 3-5 minutes, 1 time a day.
NO SYMPTOMS - Massage 3-5 minutes, after workout or extensive postural use.
Here are my related blog posts that you'll enjoy reading:
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Yours In Muscle Health,
Jason Barlow, RMT
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