Tendons are tissues which connect muscle to bone and allow movement to take place. In the case of the triceps, the muscle begins at the shoulder joint and extends down the back of the arm to the elbow. At the elbow, the triceps tendon connects the triceps muscle to the bony bump at the base of the elbow called the olecranon process. This tendon allows you to straighten your arm after you bend your elbow, and this is the tendon which is inflamed in cases of triceps tendonitis.
Causes Of Triceps Tendonitis
Triceps tendonitis is usually caused by either overuse of traumatic injury, with overuse being most common. Overuse tends to result from repetitively straightening or pushing the elbow during activities like hammering, throwing or doing bench press routines. The stress causes damage and inflammation over a period of time. Trauma can result from a direct blow or extreme force.
Elbow pain which gets worse with activity is the most common symptom. In severe cases, the pain may be present even when the muscles are not in use. The triceps muscle sometimes becomes weak or fluid builds up in the area.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
Symptoms of triceps tendonitis include pain or weakness in the triceps, elbows or shoulders. Elbow pain which gets worse with activity is the most common symptom. In severe cases, the pain may be present even when the muscles are not in use. The triceps muscle sometimes becomes weak or fluid builds up in the area. You may also experience a snapping sound or feeling in the shoulders or elbow along with swelling at the back of the elbow.
Triceps tendonitis is diagnosed through medical history, physical examinations and a review of symptoms. X-rays, ultrasounds or CT scans may also be used to confirm the diagnosis or rule out other problems. The doctor is likely to press on the areas where the tendons attach to see if there is swelling or hardness. Your range of motion may be tested with exercise.
There are both surgical and non-surgical treatment options for triceps tendonitis. The RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) protocol should be used during the first two days of treatment. Any activities which cause elbow pain should be avoided. A cold compress should be applied several times throughout the day and a bandage should be used for light compression. Elevating the elbow above the heart is also helpful.
A cold compress should be applied several times throughout the day. You can use an ice pack, frozen vegetables wrapped in fabric or a cooling gel pack. You can apply them every three or four hours for up to 20 minutes at a time. Another option is to try ice massage. You can do this easily. Freeze water in a small paper, plastic or Styrofoam cup. Tear away a section at the top of the cup so the ice is exposed. Keep the arm elevated above the heart and move the ice over it in a circular motion for a maximum of ten minutes. Make sure you never keep the ice in one spot for long.
Doctors may prescribe aspirin or ibuprofen to reduce the pain and swelling. When the inflammation is under control, the tendon will need to be stretched and strengthened through exercise. The recovery period should be taken seriously since the injury can otherwise recur.
Once there is no more swelling, moist heat may make it easier to move your arm. It works by helping your muscles to relax. You can use heat patches, moist heating pads or a wet washcloth that has been placed in the dryer. Taking a hot shower should also help. You can do this for 10 or 15-minute periods before you do your stretching exercises.
If the elbow does not respond to non-surgical treatment or the tendon is ruptured, surgery may be necessary. This can include repairing or replacing the triceps tendon and reattaching the tendon to the bone. After the procedure, the arm is placed in a cast or splint to protect the surgical site and allow it to heal.
You can prevent triceps tendonitis by warming up and stretching before exercise. If you feel pain after exercise, putting ice on the affected arm may help to prevent it from becoming injured. You should also adhere to advice from trainers or coaches about how to prevent injuries. If there is protective equipment associated with your sport or workout routine or job, make sure you use it every time. If you find particular activities always cause the back of your arm to hurt, you should avoid them
How to Stretch the Triceps
Raise the injured arm over your head and put your hand behind your neck. Use the other hand to gently push your elbow backward until you feel a stretch on the outside of your arm. Hold the stretch for 15 seconds and then relax. Repeat up to four times unless you are experiencing pain.
The next step is to bring your injured arm across your chest and under your chin. Use the other hand to press the arm toward the chest until you feel a stretch in your triceps. Hold this position for 15 seconds and then relax the muscle. Repeat this up to ten times once you are not in pain.
How to Strengthen the Triceps
Place your injured elbow close to your side, hold your lower arm in front of and make a fist. Use your other hand to hold your fist and press down with the fist into your other hand. You should feel tightening in the back of your arm. Hold this position for five seconds and repeat it up to ten times once you are not experiencing pain.
Next, extend your arms behind you and allow your palms to face up. Make sure you keep your arms straight and press them up to the ceiling as far as you comfortably can. Hold the position for 15 seconds and then relax. Repeat up to ten times unless it hurts.