The biceps brachii muscles in the upper arms, commonly known as biceps, serve three different functions. They are the main muscle we use to flex the elbow, work with the brachialis muscle to help flex the forearm and turn the palm of our hands upwards and they play a minor role in the movement of our shoulder joints.
These functions make the biceps crucial to an active lifestyle, and as a result injury to the area can be very limiting for a patient. Fortunately, massage therapy can be a useful complimentary treatment for biceps injuries by helping to repair damage, relieve discomfort, and restore full range of motion in the muscles.
The Biceps Brachii is actually made up of two muscles, called the short head and the long head, which function as one. It is one of the few muscles in the body which cross two joints, the elbow and the shoulder. At the shoulder, the long head originates from the supraglenoid tubercle, a region of the shoulder blade just above a shallow cavity known as the glenoid fossa.
Prior to this insertion point, the long head also blends fibrously into the glenoid labrum, a rim of fibrocartilage around the glenoid fossa. Students pursuing massage therapy training need to be particularly aware of this connection as tears in the upper part of glenoid labrum, known as Superior Labral Anterior Posterior (SLAP) lesions, are often the result of sudden exertion of the biceps.
The short head attaches just slightly above the long head, at the coracoids process. This is a small hook-like structure which also serves as a point of attachment for other muscles and ligaments, including the coracobrachialis, another upper arm muscle which shares the same nerve supply as the biceps.
Further down the arm, the two heads join to form a single muscle mass with two different insertion points near the elbow joint. The tendon attaches at the radial tuberosity, a rounded eminence just next to the elbow. Meanwhile, the bicipital aponeurosis—a band of fibrous connective tissue—inserts into the fascia on the outside of the forearm.
Bicep injuries are usually assessed using two separate tests. The first of which involves asking the client to flex the elbow while applying resistance by placing your hands on their wrists. If the patient experiences pain, it could be either a biceps or brachialis injury.
A massage therapist will usually perform a second test to distinguish between the two, which involves applying resistance to the forearm while asking the patient to rotate it outwards. Since these tests cover the two primary functions of the biceps, pain experienced in both tests will confirm an injury.
Deep tissue massage techniques can be very effective when dealing with biceps injuries. Friction massage can provide pain relief and help to realign muscle fibers by breaking up adhesions, while stripping techniques can also help to elongate the muscles and reduce tightness.
Depending on the nature of the injury, massage therapy college students may also find it useful to include integrated exercises in a patient’s treatment plan to aid rehabilitation, such as stretching and strengthening exercises.
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