What are a triceps?

Located at the back of the upper arm, originating at the shoulder and stretching down to the forearm, the triceps muscle is in charge of straightening the elbow as well as aiding in shoulder movements. When this muscle is contracted, tension is placed on its tendon. With too much tension either from a heavy force or severe repetition, damage occurs that leads to inflammation and degeneration. With continued abuse, those injured lose the capability to fully flex and stretch the elbow while the tendon itself becomes more brittle.

What causes triceps tendonitis?

As mentioned before, there are two main reasons a triceps injury occurs, but repetitive or extended activities that strain the muscle are the most likely culprits. This can happen due to pushing or straightening the elbow in a repeated manner, like through the motion of push-ups or bench presses. Undue extreme force is the second reason and is far less common. Boxers and weight lifters during heavy lifts, for instance, undergo more force than the triceps tendon is used to, resulting in injury. Those that suffer from limited flexibility and strength are the most at risk.

Common symptoms of triceps tendonitis

If you are concerned that you may have possible hurt your triceps, pay attention to any arm pains, specifically at the back of the elbow. Generally, a stiffness or ache is felt at the back of the elbow that increases with rest after repetitive activities that activate the muscle. Any pain that gets worse when the arm is extended is a big indication. Other times, the ache can swell into an acute pain when an activity is performed. Sometimes there is swelling, a feeling of weakness when straightening the elbow or pain when firmly pressing in to the tendon. To prevent any further damage, seek medical attention from your physician.


A combination of physical therapy and anti-inflammatory medication, treatment is relatively simple. Before physical therapy begins, swelling is isolated and treated with cold packs, ice massages and ibuprofen. This minimizes the swelling so that the triceps can be better aided. Exercises then begin with a stretch of the triceps which can be done in a number of ways. After this, strength exercises are performed that build up both elbow extensors and elbow flexors.

Get expert help

Triceps Tendonitis can be very painful and prevent you from being active. If you are suffering from any symptoms or pain, and are concerned that you may have triceps tendonitis or any arm injury visit an IBJI physician for expert care and treatment.