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Pain in the Arm

Muscle Pain

Any of the muscles of the arm can be strained or overused. The biceps muscle is easily strained or even torn. As its name suggests, it has two heads, the long and short head. The long head runs though the bicipital groove and through the capsule of the shoulder joint. This tendon can very easily become inflamed through trauma or overuse, and is easily mistaken for shoulder pain. Drainage techniques can help reduce the inflamation, and tension can be reduced in the biceps to encourage blood flow and improve healing.

Referred Pain

Pain can be referred into the arm from the neck or from impingment of the brachial plexus. The nerves from the neck create a network (plexus) above and behind the collar bone. They travel together with the artery and vein supplying the arm. The path runs through muscles in the neck, under the collar bone, over the first rib and underneath pectoralis minor. This nerve and blood supply can be trapped at any point. This is made more likely by poor posture, with the shoulders rotating inwards. The referred pain can be at any point in the arm, even down into the fingers. Articulation, mobilisation and manipulation of the neck, shoulder and clavicle can all help restore proper function.


Common muscular dysfunctions at the elbow are tennis and golfers elbow. Both are caused by muscles tractioning their insertions and causing inflammation: with the wrist extensors causing tennis elbow and the wrist flexors causing golfers elbow. Both dysfunctions are readily treated by soft tissue manipulation. Ligament sprains at the elbow are less common as the joint is a hinge joint with little accessory movement.

Inflammation of the bursa at the elbow is relatively common, and can be caused by continually resting on the elbow.

Dysfunction of the head of the radius in the radial groove of the ulna can also cause symptoms similar to tennis elbow, or may contribute to the problem. This can be improved by articulation or manipulation of the radial head.

Hitchin Osteopathic Clinic, Old Park Dental Surgery, 72 Old Park Road, Hitchin, Hertfordshire SG5 2JT 01462 432609