Ask The Trainer #14 – Arm Injury


Please help me! I think I pulled a muscle in my forearm and biceps! How can I get back to working out again and going back to work?



First off, I think it’s a very wise choice to set up an appointment with your physician to get an accurate diagnosis for your arm injury. Your doctor will likely begin by testing your range of motion, and also likely compress your arm at various points to help determine the origin of your pain and type of injury you have.

From there, your MD will make a decision as to whether or not further diagnostic testing is necessary. For example, your doctor may order an MRI scan for a more detailed look at what is actually going on inside your arm. If your doctor isn’t able to definitively identify the cause of your pain, he or she will likely refer you to an Orthopedic Specialist.

Chad Shaw

While I’m certainly NOT a doctor, based on your description, I suspect you may have some degree of strain to your distal biceps tendon. A distal biceps tendon strain is classified as a stretching or tearing of the biceps muscle and/or distal biceps tendon. This tendon, located at the lower end of the humerus bone (the upper arm), inserts into the radius bone where the base of your biceps muscle is attached (at the elbow).

Degrees of Possible Strains

  • First Degree (mildest) – little tissue tearing; mild tenderness; pain with a full range of motion.
  • Second Degree – a torn muscle or tendon tissues; painful, limited motion; possibly some swelling or depression at the painful spot of the injury.
  • Third Degree (most severe) – very limited or no movement; pain will be severe at first but then might be painless after the initial injury occurs.

These injuries are very common among bodybuilders who have a tendency to bend their wrists towards their body while performing various biceps curl exercises. This places an excessive amount of stress on the distal biceps tendon. What they should be doing is making sure their wrists stay straight and in line with the forearms throughout the full range of any curling motion.

Your recovery time will depend upon the degree of damage, combined with your compliance to your treatment plan. For the time being, you should avoid ANY type of exercise that triggers pain. If you attempt to work through the pain, you will likely intensify your injury, thus delaying the healing process.

Therefore, ONLY performing exercises that don’t cause you pain. Anytime you do feel a sharp pain, STOP IMMEDIATELY! The very last thing you want is to rupture your distal biceps tendon. If that happens, you’ll need to have the tendon surgically reattached. Worst of all, it can take upwards of 1 year to fully recover from this type of surgery.


If there is any swelling present, apply an ice pack to the affected area for 15-20 minutes following activity until the swelling has subsided. Once the swelling is no longer present, apply moist heat.

Moreover, many people, including myself, have also had great luck using acupuncture and laser therapy to help speed up the healing process of soft tissue injuries.

I’ve found that many physical therapists and massage therapists also know of some reputable acupuncturists and laser therapists. So, they might be a good resource for you to get an honest recommendation of someone to pursue to get additional treatment.

Here’s to hoping you have a speedy, full recovery!

Prove ‘Em Wrong,
Chad Shaw

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