What is the triceps muscle?

The triceps is a tripinnate muscle, meaning it is made up of three parts–the long, medial, and lateral heads. It extends the elbow and allows the arm to be held in place in space. The triceps originates on the humerus and runs down the upper arm where it attaches to the olecranon process of the ulna.

What injuries happen to the triceps?

The triceps tendon can get tendonitis or suffer a frank rupture. Both can look similar. Furthermore, a rupture is often not ‘complete’ and can confuse the diagnosis.

 

Who gets triceps injuries?

Most often, males that participate in vigorous activity suffer from triceps tendon injuries. Common injury mechanisms include weight lifting, football, or heavy manual labor.  It is typically caused by an eccentric load on an outstretched arm.

What is triceps tendonitis?

Inflammation of the triceps as it inserts on the olecranon tip, which causes pain on the tip of the elbow and weakness. This inflammation is likely not an inflammatory state, but rather a degenerative one (like tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow).

How do we diagnose and treat triceps tendonitis?

Weakness and pain on physical examination are clues to the diagnosis. Plain x-rays are essential along with an MRI to rule out a tear. To recover from triceps tendonitis, rehabilitation with physical therapy is critical, as is avoiding vigorous activities.

How do we diagnose and treat a triceps rupture?

Loss of extension strength of the elbow is helpful for diagnosis but not always present. Often, the triceps is incompletely ruptured, and some extension is possible. An MRI or ultrasound will make a definitive diagnosis. In those individuals with less than a 50% rupture in children and the non- athlete, we can treat a rupture using physical therapy with excellent results. However, those with significant ruptures or athletes are generally treated with surgical repair.

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