Pain of the triceps tendon or muscle / triceps tendinopathy / triceps tendinitis / triceps rupture
Pain along the back of the elbow or the upper arm can have various causes. One of these can be the muscle called the 'triceps brachii'. Triceps pain is often referred to as triceps tendinitis or a tear of the triceps muscle.
The triceps brachii is the muscle located at the back of the upper arm. It connects the elbow to the upper arm and the shoulder blade. The main function of this muscle is to extend the elbow.
Description of the condition
The tendon that attaches the triceps brachii to the back of the elbow can become inflamed. This is called triceps tendinitis. In more severe cases the tendon can tear partially or completely.
Cause and origin
Triceps tendinitis usually occurs following repetitive or prolonged activities that place strain on the triceps tendon. This usually occurs as a result of repeated pushing or straightening of the elbow against resistance. For example, when performing push-ups or dips.
Sometimes the symptoms can develop suddenly as a result of a force that is greater than the triceps is able to resist. For example, heavy weightlifting in the gym. A fall on the outstretched arm can also cause a triceps injury. Excessive forces increase the risk of a partial or complete rupture of the muscle or the tendon. This is also referred to as a triceps rupture.
Signs & symptoms
- Pain on the back of the elbow and/or upper arm
- Pressing on the triceps tendon or muscle is painful.
- Extending the elbow against resistance is painful.
- Stretching the muscle usually also causes symptoms.
- Swelling can occur along the back of the elbow.
- Sometimes there is loss of strength (particularly in the case of a ruptured triceps).
Koplas, M.C., Schneider, E. & Sundaram, M. (2011). Prevalence of triceps tendon tears on MRI of the elbow and clinical correlation. Skeletal Radiol. 2011; 40:587-594.
Vidal, A.F., Drakos, M.C. & Allen, A.A. (2004). Biceps tendon and triceps tendon injuries. Clin Sports Med. 2004; 23:707-722.