Everything You Need To Know About Bicep Muscle Spasm

If you’ve ever experienced painful muscle contractions in your biceps, you know how disruptive spasms can be. They can compromise your sports performance, make certain movements undesirable, and even get in the way of a good night’s sleep. 

In most cases, muscle spasms in the bicep are nothing to worry about: they are an occasional inconvenience that stems from dehydration or muscle fatigue. However, in some cases, they can be a telltale sign indicating a more serious underlying condition of the nervous system. 

While medications or surgery are inefficient in treating bicep spasms, there is a lot you can do to address this symptom – starting with making Neurofunctional Pain Management your treatment of choice. 

The Neuragenex Neurofunctional Pain Management helps you regain your musculoskeletal health by tackling the systemic inflammation at the root of most chronic disorders, without drugs or invasive procedures. We’ll cover all you need to know in this guide. 

What Are Muscle Spasms?

Muscle spasms, also known as muscle cramps, are painful and involuntary muscle contractions that occur when a muscle tightens forcibly and can’t relax. Spasms can affect part of a muscle or the entire muscle and, sometimes, multiple muscles in a group. 

While they are normal and quite common, they can be disruptive, especially because they are unpredictable and may occur during movements or activities.

Muscle spasms are slightly different from muscle twitching (or muscle fasciculations). Muscle twitching involves small muscle contractions in the body, which are not generally painful and often go unnoticed. Nonetheless, both spasms and fasciculations can occur as a consequence of stimulation or malfunction of nerve fibers located within certain muscles

The central nervous system is composed of the nerves in the brain and spinal cord and is responsible for connecting and controlling the nerve fibers that travel throughout the body. The nerve fibers outside the brain and spinal cord make up the peripheral nervous system. 

When one or more of these nerves is overstimulated (e.g. by caffeine or stress), damaged, entrapped, or inflamed, the transmission of signals between the body and the brain becomes compromised. 

This can cause the nerves to misfire and cause a range of symptoms, including involuntary muscle contractions, numbness, tingling sensations, and muscle weakness. Over time, these symptoms can grow in intensity, interfere with an athlete’s sports performance, and lead to sleep disruptions. 

Muscle spasms are reported to affect between 18% and 67% of athletes participating in sports such as triathlon, endurance cycling, marathons, and American football. Studies also show that 46% of people over the age of 60 have recurring cramps, with 31% reporting being woken up by cramps. 

In most cases, muscle spasms aren’t cause for concern, especially if they are an occasional, infrequent symptom. However, if they occur suddenly, interfere with your daily life, or become frequent, it is important to seek an accurate diagnosis. Sometimes, they can point to a more severe underlying condition of the nervous system. 

What Does A Muscle Spasm In A Bicep Feel Like?

Although muscle spasms are common, not all involuntary muscle movements will feel the same. In particular, bicep muscle spasms aren’t as common as cramps in the legs – especially the calves – or feet, which are the most commonly affected by exercise-related and nocturnal spasms

Spasms in the bicep can feel like the muscle is jumping around uncontrollably or tightening up into a ball. You may also see your muscle moving involuntarily under the skin of the arm and experience unprovoked pain or a feeling of tightness. 

These spasms usually last between a few seconds and 15 minutes and can recur multiple times before going away on their own. In the event of a particularly painful cramp, you can feel sore for a day or two. 

Most bicep muscle spasms are idiopathic (have no cause) and resolve on their own with conservative treatments, lifestyle changes, and activity modification. However, they may indicate a more serious condition if they are accompanied by other symptoms, such as:

  • Unprovoked pain 
  • Paralysis
  • Muscle weakness
  • Numbness
  • Vision changes 
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Coordination issues

Common Causes Of Muscle Spasms In The Biceps

A lot is yet to be understood about why some people get muscle spasms more than others. However, some contributors make cramps and involuntary muscle movements more likely:

  • Dehydration

Dehydration is a common cause of muscle spasms, especially in the body’s larger muscles. Spasms due to dehydration occur because, without necessary fluids, the volume of blood in the body decreases. This hinders the supply of blood, oxygen, and nutrients to muscles and nerves, which causes the muscles to work harder and leads to muscle fatigue. 

Additionally, electrolyte imbalances caused by excessive sweating, diarrhea, vomiting, or intense exercise decrease the levels of minerals such as potassium, sodium, and magnesium, which are essential to muscle function. Dehydration can also prevent your body from cooling down as normal after a workout, which leads to overheating – a common contributing factor to spasms. 

It is estimated that today, over 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated, and older adults are at even greater risk due to mobility issues and fluid imbalances. 

  • Stress and anxiety

Stress and anxiety can overstimulate the nerves within the muscles, thus leading to involuntary contractions. Mental health conditions can also lead to “nervous tics,” which can affect any muscle in the body. 

Muscle spasms related to stress and anxiety can be made worse by sleep disorders. When you are not getting enough sleep or your sleep is disturbed (also due to cramps), your stress levels and inflammation increase, which can lead to more intense and frequent cramps.

  • Muscular tension or overuse due to exercise 

Exercise-associated muscle cramps (EAMCs) are the most common cause of spasms. While their cause remains unknown, studies suggest that they may be related to the loss of fluids, overheating, excessive sweating, and fatigue that occurs due to or after exercise. 

In turn, fatigue and electrolyte imbalances can make muscles hyperexcitable, causing them to contract in response to minimal stimuli. 

  • Side effects of medications

Muscle spasms may also be a side effect of certain medications, such as corticosteroids and hormonal birth control that contain estrogen. In this case, cramps commonly affect the hands, arms, and legs. 

  • Nutrient deficiencies

Certain nutrient deficiencies and imbalances may prevent muscles from obtaining the vitamins and minerals necessary for optimal functioning. Common deficiencies that may lead to cramps include vitamin D, vitamin B, and calcium. Spasms deriving from nutritional imbalances often affect the calves, hands, and eyelids. 

Nocturnal cramps, which occur at night or during sleep, may also be caused by sitting for long periods, muscle overuse, working on concrete floors, or poor sitting or standing posture. 

Additionally, you are more likely to experience cramps if:

  • You are an athlete
  • You are pregnant 
  • You are over the age of 65 
  • You are obese

Conditions Associated With Muscle Spasms

Severe, recurring, or sudden-onset bicep spasms can, in some cases, be traced back to neurological conditions that affect the central or peripheral nervous systems. These disorders damage the nerves that supply the muscles in the bicep or the motor neurons responsible for processing signals relating to movement. 

If left untreated, neurological disorders can lead to progressively more intense symptoms, including muscle weakness, atrophy (muscle mass loss), coordination problems, and, eventually, disability. Some of the most common neurological conditions related to bicep cramps in particular include the following: 


Arteriosclerosis occurs when arteries become thick, stiff, or hardened due to the buildup of fatty substances, such as cholesterol, on the inner lining of the arteries. This build-up develops gradually, and it may not cause any symptoms at first. 

However, as the plaque on the artery walls begins to accumulate, the restricted blood flow can start to cause complications such as chest pain and shortness of breath. When the blood supply to the brain or heart is cut off entirely, heart attacks and strokes can also occur. 

The restricted blood flow may also prevent the nerve fibers in the peripheral nervous system from accessing necessary nutrients and oxygen, which can cause them to become damaged and die off. This complication can lead to symptoms such as unprovoked pain, involuntary muscle movements, and numbness. 

Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic illness of the nervous system where the immune system mistakenly attacks the protective covering of nerve fibers (or myelin) in your central nervous system. 

MS can begin to develop without any clear cause, and it can cause severe lesions and scar tissue on the nerve fibers that control muscle movements. This can disrupt the communication between the brain and the rest of the body, leading to muscle spasms, stiffness, weakness, atrophy, and eventually, the inability to move your limbs. 

While the symptoms of MS vary widely, muscle spasticity (involuntary, painful tightening and movements of the muscles) is a common complication affecting nearly three-quarters of those with multiple sclerosis

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a progressive neurological disease that damages nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord and causes them to die. 

The exact causes of ALS are still unknown, but genetic and environmental risk factors seem to play a role in the death of these nerve cells, resulting in the inability of the brain to control muscle movements. This can hinder proper nerve signaling, thus leading to forceful, involuntary muscle movements such as cramps and fasciculations. 

As it progresses, ALS can also cause muscle atrophy (due to disuse) and difficulty speaking, breathing, walking, or grasping things. Up to 12% of people with ALS experience muscle cramping.

Peripheral Neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy (PN) occurs when the nerves in the peripheral nervous system (those outside of the brain and spinal cord) become damaged, thus interfering with the normal transmission of nerve signals relating to movement and sensation. 

PN can develop due to a range of reasons like injuries that damage nerves, metabolic problems such as diabetes, inherited conditions, infections, and exposure to toxins. When it affects the nerves responsible for carrying signals relating to pain, touch, and temperature, you are likely to experience numbness and tingling sensations. 

When motor nerves are damaged, your symptoms will include involuntary movements like spasms and fasciculations. 

When Should Spasms No Longer Be Regarded As Normal?

As we have seen above, most of the time, bicep muscle spasms aren’t something to worry about. This is the case if they occur due to dehydration and stress, or if they’ve been part of your life for years. Simply, some people are naturally more prone to experiencing spasms than others. 

However, sometimes, bicep spasms are the tip of the iceberg of a more serious condition that may require specialized treatment. Generally, you should seek immediate medical attention if:

  • You are experiencing new-onset or sudden spasms 
  • Your spasms are increasing in frequency or intensity
  • Bicep cramps are getting in the way of your life, preventing you from practicing sports or grasping and holding objects 
  • You are experiencing other symptoms, such as weakness, loss of muscle tone, shrinkage, and coordination problems

Your doctor can diagnose any underlying condition causing the spasms by:

  • Surveying your symptoms and asking questions regarding your lifestyle, physical activity, stress levels, and sleep quality
  • Assessing your medical history 
  • Carrying out a physical examination
  • Prescribing blood tests for nutritional deficiencies
  • Carrying out tests to determine the density and health of nerve fibers. These include biopsies, nerve conduction exams, and electromyograms
  • Referring you to a specialist for a neurological exam

Conventional Treatment Options For Muscle Spasms In The Biceps

Whether you are naturally prone to bicep spasms or you are dealing with new, intense symptoms, some conventional treatment options are commonly prescribed to manage the symptoms. These include:

  • Stretching. Stretching can improve muscle flexibility and tone, and it can alleviate the pressure on intramuscular nerve fibers, thus improving nerve function and reducing muscle spasms. 
  • Activity modification. If your muscle spasms intensify after strenuous physical activity or exercise, your doctor may recommend some modifications to reduce undue pressure on nerves and muscles. 
  • Apply heat or ice. Cold packs or heat pads can help alleviate pain and inflammation, as well as relax muscles and reduce tension. Applying heat can also boost blood circulation around nerve fibers, thus supporting their health by providing oxygen and nutrients. 
  • Medication. Certain over-the-counter medications may help reduce pain and muscle tension, especially when you are experiencing several spasms in a short amount of time. Helpful medications include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen, muscle relaxants, and neuromuscular blockers. 
  • Electrical stimulation devices. Electrical stimulation can be used to retrain the muscles to contract and relax properly. It works by delivering pulses of electricity when, during certain movements, the muscles are naturally supposed to contract. Electrical stimulation can also reduce pain, promote blood circulation, and alleviate muscle tension. 

If spasms are linked to certain emotional and psychological conditions, like stress and anxiety, approaches such as cognitive behavioral therapy may also help. 

Patients can also benefit from positive lifestyle changes and practices that reduce stress and tension, correct nutritional deficiencies, limit exposure to neurotoxic substances, and promote musculoskeletal health. These changes should include:

  • Eating a balanced diet 
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Trying stress management techniques, meditation, and mind-body activities like yoga
  • Limiting caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine intake
  • Switching medications to avoid side effects such as spasms

Managing Pain Caused By Bicep Muscle Spasms

If your muscle spasms are frequent, chronic, or so severe as to get in the way of your everyday life, conventional treatments cannot always be considered a sustainable long-term approach. 

And, in the case of medications, they can also expose you to severe side effects, including drowsiness, kidney dysfunction, stomach ulcers, and an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. 

What’s more, when you are only tackling bicep spasms as a stand-alone symptom, you may be letting another, more serious underlying condition go untreated. 

That’s why the approach we pioneered provides a far superior alternative. Neuragenex Neurofunctional Pain Management uses non-invasive and non-drug therapies like electroanalgesia, IV therapy, and lifestyle counseling to tackle the systemic inflammation at the source of your musculoskeletal dysfunction

This whole-person approach does more than ease your bicep spasm: it addresses the true cause of pain and cramps to help you regain your health and magnify your quality of life.


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Get Proper Support And Treatment With Us

Bicep spasms can be a disrupting symptom, which can affect your everyday life, sports performance, and mental health. Because they are not as common as calf spasms, they can also cause you to worry about your musculoskeletal health. 

Fortunately, there is a non-invasive and non-drug strategy to get to the root of the problem, ease your symptoms, and regain your arm function: Neuragenex Neurofunctional Pain Management.

Want to know more about the symptoms of your condition? Schedule a consultation today to get started.

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