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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.