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Brachialis Pain: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Exercises, Diagnosis

This Article Discusses About:[1]

Brachialis pain is inflammation of the brachial plexus that can result in sudden pain in the arm and shoulder followed by weakness or numbness. This condition is referred by many names including – Parsonage Aldren Turner Syndrome, Brachial Plexitis, Climbers Elbow, Brachial Plexopathy, Brachial Neuropathy and Acute Brachial Radiculitis. The exact cause of Brachialis pain is not known as the condition is comparatively rare. Pain in brachialis basically means the nerves that control the shoulder, arm and hands become inflamed. It causes severe pain and when the pain subsides the shoulders become weak and limit movements.

The Brachialis muscle is not known to a lot of people as it is covered by the biceps brachii. However, it is an important muscle required for flexing the forearm at the elbow joint. Brachialis pain is a muscle overuse injury which starts with a small pain and gradually progresses to excess pain. Some activities increase the pain, which include – playing violin, lifting heavy objects, rock climbing, regular pull ups, playing cello and repetitive twisting of arm with the elbow bent.

Brachialis Pain

If treated properly and on time, Brachialis pain can be cured within 6 weeks. Weakened muscles resulting from the pain can be corrected in a few months. Longer the Brachialis pain lasts, longer will be the time to cure the pain.

Causes of Brachialis Pain[2]

The exact cause of brachialis pain is not known. Usually, Brachialis pain is abrupt and it can follow after recent illness, trauma, surgery and immunization. It has been seen that in most cases the pain begins at night and it is confined around the shoulder region. The pain is sharp and throbbing and its intensity is very high. Brachialis pain is constant and can be aggravated by shoulder movements. Depending on conditions, the pain can last for a few hours to several weeks.

Risk of brachialis pain increases in people involved with contact sports or activities that require overhead use of arms like gymnastics, weightlifting, bodybuilding, rock climbing, bowling and throwing sports. Heavy labour also increases the risk of this pain. Body not adequately warmed up before an activity, restraining the elbow, poor strength, flexibility and injury to the elbow also increases the risk of brachialis pain.

Symptoms of Brachialis Pain[3]

Brachialis pain starts with pain and goes on to make the muscles very weak. Some of the common symptoms associated with Brachialis pain include –

  • Sudden onset of pain
  • Arm muscle becomes weak
  • Piercing, sharp, or radiating pain
  • Pain starts in the shoulder and upper arm
  • Symptoms are felt on one side of the body
  • Swelling at the elbow or over the elbow
  • Pain, ache and tenderness over the elbow’s front
  • Unable to completely straighten or bend the elbow
  • Pain is severe when attempting to fully straighten the elbow
  • Pain becomes worse with activities like rock climbing or throwing
  • There is crackling sound when tendon or elbow is moved or touched.

Other symptoms of brachialis pain include pain that only lessens after taking painkillers and stays constantly for hours or weeks depending on the severity of the condition. In some cases shoulder muscle become weak or even paralyzed when the pain recedes. If the nerve near the diaphragm is affected, the patient can experience shortness of breath. The severity and duration of brachialis pain symptoms changes depending on a patient’s physical condition.

Diagnosis of Brachialis Pain

Patients who show any symptoms of brachialis pain must consult the doctor immediately, whether they have any of the at-risk factors or not. The doctor or health care provider performs electromyography or nerve conduction studies to determine if a person is suffering from brachialis pain or not. This examination helps in determining the exact amount of nerve damage. Other tests can also be done to test shoulder movement and strength and to find painful and wasted muscles.

In some cases the affected shoulder protrudes, so doctors have to check for this. Depending on the condition, doctors can ask for MRI, CT scans and X-rays of the neck and shoulder. These tests help in ruling out other causes like tumor or slipped disc for the pain. If patients are suffering from any underlying illness, the doctor can request for blood tests as well.

Treatment of Brachialis Pain

Doctors use a combination of medicines and physical therapy to treat brachialis pain. The first step to treat brachialis pain involves the use of pain killers that help in reducing the pain and inflammation. Anti-inflammatory medicines like aspirin and ibuprofen or other pain relievers are generally prescribed. Patients must make changes to lessen or modify movements and activities that can worsen the symptoms.

Strengthening and stretching exercises are useful to treat brachialis pain but they must be done correctly. It is important to learn the proper method and it can be done at home or at the therapist’s office based on convenience. If the symptoms of brachialis pain do not improve the doctor can suggest surgery, though it is rarely required. In the surgery the damaged nerves are repaired with grafts taken from other healthy nerves. It helps in restoring the muscle function.

Icing the affected area helps in relieving brachialis pain and reducing inflammation. Cold treatment must be applied on the affected area for 10/15 minutes every 2/3 hours immediately after any activity that is likely to aggravate the symptoms of brachialis pain. However, those who suffer from arthritis must take the cold compression with care and after consulting as it could increase their overall pain. Instead a hot compress can be used. For others, heat treatment for brachialis pain can be done before doing the stretching and strengthening exercises as prescribed by a therapist. It can be done with heat pack or a warm water soak.

Exercises for Brachialis Pain[4]

Exercises for brachialis pain can help to rehabilitate the injury. It can also help in restoring tissue flexibility and normal motion in the joints. Any workout or stretch should not be painful and must involve gentle release on the stretched muscle. There are a number of exercises that can help in lessening and curing brachialis pain. It is advised to consult a professional so that they can guide on doing the exercises properly. Some of the exercises that can help include –

  • Barbell Curl Exercise for Brachialis Pain

Barbell curls helps in training the brachialis muscle. In this exercise, keep the back straight and slowly raise the barbell while flexing the elbows with controlled and uniform movement. The barbell’s weight must correlate with the arm muscle’s strength. Lightweight barbells will not complement the muscle and anything too heavy can cause damage to the muscle.

  • Dumbbell Hammer Curls Exercise for Pain in Brachialis Muscle

Dumbbell hammer curls exercises an area of the biceps muscle by curling the dumbbell toward the shoulder. For this exercise hold a dumbbell in each hand near the thigh’s side with palms facing the thigh and keeping the back straight. Next, slowly raise the dumbbells and flex both elbows, till dumbbells touch the shoulder. Keep elbows to the side and press them against the body so that just the brachialis muscle lifts the dumbbells. Continue dumbbell hammer curls with alternating arms till the muscles are tight but not painful.

  • Arm Extension Exercises for Brachialis Pain

Keep the right/left arm at the side and straighten elbow as far as comfortable. Set it straight further by pushing down the forearm till a gentle stretch is felt on the inside section of the elbow. Hold the position for a few seconds and slowly return to the starting point.


Being a health problem associated with shoulder pain, Brachialis Pain is a condition that states about inflammation of nerves controlling movement of shoulder, hand and arm. These nerves happen to form brachial plexus, which starts from spinal cord towards neck, shoulder and finally into the arm. The problem with the shoulder pain is that it aggravates on not being treated properly. However, with care it cured, although it might take some time for the full strength to return.


Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:December 7, 2020

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