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Stabbing bicep pain when I lift my arm

For the last 3 months (since April 2005), I've developed a stabbing pain in my left bicep when my arm is in certain positions.  The pain is located deep within my arm in the center of my upper arm and is very intense (i.e., level 8-10) as if a knife was plunged into the center of my bicep.  When the pain happens, I have to use my right arm to pick up the left arm and move it into a neutral position down and in front of me.  Depending on how intense the episode was, it can take anywhere from 5-10 seconds for the pain to subside and disappear completely.

The pain happens when I lift my arm into certain positions (i.e., overhead presses especially when my arm lifts next to my head or behind my head).  I am no longer able to put a bar behind my neck and grip it from behind.  The motion of bringing my arm up and back to grasp the bar is excrutiating.  It doesn't matter if I'm lifting weights or not -- I experience the pain in my everyday life too whenever my arm is raised, bent at the elbow, and moved backward.  Note, I am able to do bicep curls or hammer curls with 5# weights without pain so any bicep-related activity in front of my body is pain free.  Tricep kick backs and tricep "push ups" are also pain free.

I have been active, including aerobics, biking, skiing, lifting weights (5# or less), on and off all my life and 3-4 times a week since late last year and consider myself in excellent shape and am of a normal weight for my height and age (45).

Note, I broke my ankle in June so didn't exercise much at all for 2 months but the arm pain is still there.
127 Responses
Avatar universal
I have EXACTLY the same symptom...
So... I am anxious to learn what it is too.
Avatar universal
I've been racking my brain trying to think of what things have happened to me last Spring with my arm which could be the cause of this pain and I remembered something which might be relevant.  While walking my 95 pound Golden Retriever on a retractable leash, I stopped to talk with a neighbor.  Unbeknownst to me, my dog, who was already at the full length of the leash, saw a squirrel and bolted after it. My left arm was suddenly jerked outward which caused some initial pain which eventually receded by the end of the day.  I'm wondering now if perhaps I could have pulled a deep muscle within my bicep.  If that is the case, I'm wondering how long it will take to be painfree.
Avatar universal
I have new information to share on this topic for anyone who is interested.  The pain just wasn't going away so I visted an orthopedic doctor today and learned that the dog-leash incident is the cause of my problem.  Apparently I have an inflammation in the area where my shoulder joins with my arm.  The shoulder area doesn't hurt but the pain is felt in the bicep instead.  Very interesting.   My doctor gave me a prescription for anti inflammatory medicine (i.e., very, very strong Aleve) which I need to take twice a day for a month to try to heal the shoulder.
2 Comments
inflammatory medicine does not HEAL it takes away the pain and reduces INFLAMMATION.
That's the point. It reduces inflammation in the arm to allow it to heal on its own
Avatar universal
I also  have pain in my bicep & front of shoulder.I think mine is from my 96lb german sheppard who also saw a squirrel on her retractable leash.I keep hoping it will get better,but it has now been over 2 months.How are you today,did the meds help?
Avatar universal
I have recently suffered this strange unsourced pain untill I read comments and symptoms on this site. I would say my "strange unexplained" painfull bicep is probably that I have recently adopted a bad habit of leaning on my elbow with my hand "cupped" on my left cheek for an half hour or more at a time for ages whilst brosing and using mouse with right hand active only, anyone agree with this? Thank you.
    Andy
2 Comments
I agree my Pain is worsened when I use computer
I agree, I use the computer a lot this way too.
Avatar universal
I have horrible cramping pain in my bicep for the last three months. I feel it coming on and if i put my arm up over my head it will subside but sometimes it takes a while and below my elbow it goes numb and tingling. Been tested for carpel, nothing shows up.What a pain. Anyone know what this is??
Avatar universal
When i do any strenuous exercise using my arms(curls, bench or shoulder press) i get a wracking ache from my bicep to my hand that last for up to an hour or so. Wondering if anyone has any idea what it is. It's very persistent(2 months now).
Avatar universal
I have the same problem but mine is the triceps. I get some real bad pain when I lift any weights, but is only in some  position, like raising my arm or bench pressing and some other positions  & went I go to sleep some times I can't even sleep because of the pain, like last night. I went to the doctor paid $200 for a visit and he told me to take some ibuprofen, but the pain still there it’s been 4 months with this pain and I don’t know what to do. CAN ANY BODY HELP ME SO I COULD SLEEP AND BE PAIN FREE? Thank you all.
Avatar universal
MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL
You need to properly assess your muscle and tendon of triceps. Need to examine it at insertion and origin and test the strength by an Orthopaedician.

Rest the muscle from exercise and assist healing. Ice packing and anti inflammatory drugs with rest will help you.

Need to do an MRI if the pain does not subside.

Take care!
Avatar universal
I know it's been years since you posted this.  But, after reading your symptoms, I'm thoroughly convinced that I have the same bicep issues.  I think mine happened when I was sleeping.  The process you describe is exactly mine as well, particularly the sharp knifing pain I'm getting in my bicep.  Whenever I extend my shoulder in a certain position, the pain occurs.  I will try ice and anti-inflamatories as well.  How long did it take your bicep pain to subside after seeing the doctor?  Thanks.
Avatar universal
MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL
Hello!

Also go for an MRI to check if your Rotator cuff is perfect along with the biceps muscle and tendon, teres major and deltoids.
You have these symptoms with rotator cuff tears.
Mild tears will completely heal with rest and followed by Physiotherapy.

Take occasional anti inflammatory drugs and you can use ice packs regularly.

Take care!
Avatar universal
I have the same bicep pain problem; actually the pain starts at my left shoulder and ends at the left elbow. It occurs when I move my arm certain ways in any direction and when I squeeze the bicep or joints. It started when I slept on my left arm in a "funny" position for about 8 hours. I've had the pain for months now. Naproxen (Aleve) helps but the potential side effects of that drug worry me. Saw a doctor who sent me to a physical therapist who thinks it is the "scalene" muscles. He stretched me and whatnot and relieved some tightness in my shoulder but the original pain problem persists. Please post a solution if you ever find one.
Who or what is Dr Vinod...his facile solutions sound phony. He probably is no doctor.
Avatar universal
Looks like I can add another chalk mark next to all of yours. Same thing, however the cause I feel is carrying a four year old with my left arm supporting her bottom. I noticed this for months but could not pinpoint it. I have woken up from this with excruciating pain almost as if someone did in fact knife me. When my elbow is locked straight i can lift my arm with little discomfort but when I bend it at a 90 and try to raise my arm the pain brings me to my knees. Off to the doc in the next few days to hopefully put an end to my misery.
Avatar universal
Aren't we all just one big ray of sunshine. Well Rustycarman, I'm feeling the exact pain.  Even extra strength pain killers and ibprophen.  With a straight arm, I can move it up and down without any pain.  While my arm is bent...I can't lift more than 45degrees. Unfortunately my pain is caused by sloppy weightlifting...I think I've learned my lesson now :(
Avatar universal
anyone get a real solution for the pain? time????? mine started 2 weeks ago in my left bicep after i woke up......ive been super busy and only been able to rest it for a about 3 days at a time, then the pain comes back just as strong then i ice it and rest overnite and it seems a little more bearable, plus ive been taking ib profin left and right.....played some basketball last nite and found myself with my left arm in the up position most of the game to relieve some of the pain....my wife keeps telling me to go the doctor, if it doesnt get better in the next month i think i will.
Avatar universal
MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL
Hello!

Rest your biceps for couple of days with application of ice packs and intake of ibuprofen and if the pain continues then get yourself examined by an orthopedician and go for an MRI if required.

Take care!
Avatar universal
thanks dr vinrod; after this weekend is over i think i'll have some time to give it a good rest.!! im in nashhville and ever since the flood  2 weekends ago its been crazy....no time to relax!! i think we'll have it handled after sunday. =) thanks again.
Avatar universal
To everyone in this conversation thread.  I developed the same pain, first in my right arm and then my left.  I would have varying degrees of pain and on somedays I was unable to lift either arm...not a good condition when wanting to stay employed.

Has anyone who has experience this stabbing disabling pain taken the antibiotic Levaquin routinely for sinus of respiratory infections?
Avatar universal
Seems like we're all experiencing the same pain.  Mine is in the right upper bicep.  More excruciating at night.  Like a sharp thick needle or knife in the arm.  Have not slept more than 2.5 hours a night for three months!  Have been to Urgent care twice.  Also emergency rooms at leading hospitals.  I've applied ice.  That made the pain worse.  I've applied heat, and the pain also worsens.  Alleve works for headaches, but not this.  Also, stronger meds have beep prescribed ... nothing.  The pain just won't go away totally.  I work out (chinese martial arts, including tai chi) and it lessens (almost completely).  Hours later, it's mild, until bedtime that is.  Hoping my visit to the doctors today will bring some good news.  By the way, I'm a very athletic 49 y/o male who rarely even gets sick.  If there is an answer, I hope it's posted here.  I think we all could use a good night's sleep!
Avatar universal
I also have upper arm pain.  It started about a year and a half ago on my left side but now both arms are involved.  There is no longer a day without pain.  It has been suggested that it could be a low potassium level.  I've added foods to my diet that are high in potassium but it doesn't help.  Neither does exercise, no exercise, heat, cold, anti-inflammitory meds, or anything else.  Is this the sort of thing that is just going to be a painful annoyance for the rest of my life or will the muscles eventually become useless?
Avatar universal
The bicept pain began about 3 years ago while caring for a baby but it is not on the same side as when I hold the baby...pain nearly went away between births of grandchildren but is still quite severe, like a knife.  I cannot life objects with that side, and sometimes I think the pain will never go away completely.  I always hold babies on the left side but it is the right upper arm that keeps me awake ... what have I done?
Avatar universal
Amazing,  I have the exact symptoms as Nilda described in the first post.  Exact positions you describe!  It's been nearly a year since onset & my left arm is now involved and I am in nearly constant pain.  TI can't sleep.  They (physio, chiropractor) said it's not rotator cuff or frozen shoulder as i don't exhibit all the symptoms.  Have any of you gone for an ultrasound or MRI (these posts have been going on since 2005, certainly someone must have looked into this further)?  I have decided to go that route to see what the problem may be so it can be properly treated with the right exercises.  I will not pursue surgery but will definately use corrective exercises.
I must wait a month for the ultrasound and who knows how long for the MRI.  will keep u posted.
Avatar universal
Hi, I too have developed this really sharp pain in my left bicep area.  it only happens when i have my arm raised above my head and move it backwards - have difficulty putting on a jumper or doing up a bra (not a problem for you fellows!).  I also experience the pain when i reach across the front of my body down low - like scratching your opposite side.  I am off to an orthopeadic guy on Tuesday (having an xray and scan before I see him) so am hoping for some answers.

aussiegail
Avatar universal
Hurt my shoulder in minor(totalled car) accident over a year ago. Finally fouond cortisone shot fixed it but then reoccurred several months later. I'm juvenile diabewtic with Keinbocks of the right lunate on top of that. Those 2 things alone make me more prone to avascular necrosis in my shoulder. My wrist bone is fused together and pretty good(10+ years) but don't think it would be so 'easy' to fix in shoulder so I told doc no more cortisone and he agreed. I'm on naproxen but it never seems to do anything for me. Think it's time to go back again.......urghhhhhhhhhh
Yes, started out like shoulder and clavicle pain that would take my breath away, now has gone to bicep too. Just like most of you, when I lift my arm up and kind of out/back the pain about puts me on the floor! Like a stabbing knife!!! I've done PT and it doesn't do anything. I've had surgery on my other shoulder for impingement(bone spur - twice he did surgery to shave it off as he didnt take enough off the first time and it also rubbed against my muscle/tendon/ligament-one of those- and caused it to fray).
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