The triceps are the upper arm muscles responsible for extending your elbow. A torn triceps is a significant injury that often necessitates surgical repair. Triceps tears are severe and require considerable healing time, usually about six months.

Triceps Brachii Anatomy

The triceps brachii muscle (triceps) runs down the back of the upper arm. “Tri” refers to its three heads: long, medial and lateral. The triceps attach to your scapula (shoulder blade) and humerus (upper arm bone). It connects to the elbow at the bottom, where the ulna (the forearm bone on the pinky side) is located.

The triceps move the shoulder and elbow joints. It extends and adducts the shoulder, but most of the time it is used to extend the elbow.

Torn Triceps Tendon Symptoms

Triceps tendon injuries cause elbow and upper arm pain. Slight damage could feel uncomfortable, but anything more serious will cause excruciating pain. Usually, triceps tears result in instant pain that gets worse if the affected person tries to move their elbow.
A bursting or tearing sound or sensation is also possible. Swelling and redness or bruises on the skin are to be expected.

It is common for people with partial tears to complain that their arms feel “weak.” However, if your triceps muscle or tendon is completely torn, you cannot straighten your elbow very far. A muscle “bunch up” may also manifest as a bump on the underside of your arm.

Torn Triceps Tendon Common Causes

Most triceps tears occur in trauma when the triceps muscle is already contracted (tightened) and an outside force is trying to bend the elbow. For example, this often happens when someone falls on their outstretched arm.

In sports, triceps tears can happen when a player is throwing a baseball, blocking players in a football game, boxing, doing gymnastics or any sporting activity that could cause them to fall. In addition, heavy weightlifting during triceps-focused exercises like the bench press can also cause tears.

Direct trauma to the triceps, such as from a car collision, is a less prevalent cause of tears.

Tendonitis, or inflammation in the tendon that joins your triceps to the bone, can cause triceps tears over time. Most triceps tendinitis cases result from overuse, either from strenuous physical activity or from manual labor. That is why “weightlifter’s elbow” is another name for triceps tendonitis.

When tendons are stressed, small tears develop that usually get repaired by the body. However, these microtears can progress into more giant tears if the tendon is subjected to stress beyond what the body can handle repairing.

Visit Dr. Steve Struhl if You Think You Have a Torn Triceps Tendon

Dr. Steven Struhl is highly experienced in treating triceps tendon injuries and can assess your arm at his Westchester or NYC clinic. If you are in pain, please schedule a consultation at once to avoid further complications.

Posted on behalf of Steven Struhl MD