Muscle injuries are never fun, especially if they keep you from performing the activities or sports you love the most. But the sooner you identify and treat your tricep pain, the sooner you can get back to your normal lifestyle.
Learn the most common causes of tricep pain, when to see a doctor and what your treatment plan may entail.
Video of the Day
4 Common Causes of Triceps Pain
1. You Have Post-Workout Soreness
Triceps pain isn't necessarily a sign of injury. You may just feel extra sore after a tough workout or new exercise, according to Carolina Araujo, CPT, a New York-based strength coach.
Whenever you strength train, you create damage (aka microtears) to your muscle, which your body repairs with stronger muscle fibers, per the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM). But when you push a little too hard or try a new exercise, this process can cause extra soreness or pain.
"Typically, post-workout muscle soreness or ache goes away within a few days, so it's nothing to worry about," Araujo says. But if your soreness persists or worsens, you may have more severe damage (more on that below).
2. You Have a Muscle Strain
Also known as a pulled muscle, a muscle strain is an injury to a muscle or its surrounding tendons, according to the Mayo Clinic. Strains can be minor, like an overstretched muscle, or more serious, like a rupture (more on that below).
Usually, muscle strain symptoms include pain or tenderness, bruising, swelling, limited mobility and muscle weakness. For the most part, more mild strains can be treated right at home with some rest and ice. But in some cases, strains may require a procedure. So, if you suspect you're dealing with a muscle strain, it's best to consult your doctor.
How Long Does a Triceps Strain Take to Heal?
Most muscle strains heal within a few weeks but your treatment timeline may vary, depending on the severity of your strain, according to the Cleveland Clinic. That's why it's best to see your doctor and get a proper diagnosis as early as possible.
3. You Have Triceps Tendonitis
Repeatedly straining your triceps can cause pretty severe pain in the back of your elbow, including inflammation and redness. Often, this is a sign of triceps tendonitis, where the muscle swells, feels painful and may even cause snapping sounds in your shoulders, according to Intermountain Healthcare.
Triceps tendonitis is generally caused by overuse, like performing the same exercise or activity (imagine throwing a baseball) over and over again.
Cases of tendonitis can vary, so treatments aren't identical for each person. For more mild cases, your doctor may recommend rest, ice and maybe even anti-inflammatory medications. But in a more concerning case, you may need steroid injections, physical therapy or surgery.
4. You Have a Tendon Rupture
Although it's not too common, in the most severe case, the cause of your triceps pain may be a total tendon tear, also known as a tendon rupture, according to Tufts Medical Center.
Most tendon ruptures are caused by a sudden activity or movement that twists or tears your tendon, like falling on an outstretched arm or pulling your bent arm straight really quickly. A tendon rupture can sound like a pop and may feel painful when you try to straighten your arm.
Tendon tears are pretty serious, so it's best to see a doctor as soon as possible to get a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.
How to Prevent Triceps Injuries
As mentioned above, most triceps injuries are caused by overuse, so it's best to limit repetitive motions or actions, if possible. Also, avoid triceps exercises that cause you pain, as many (like triceps dips) can put these muscles in a compromised position.
Stretching and strengthening your triceps can also help prevent injury or pain in the future, according to the Mayo Clinic.
4 Ways to Treat Triceps Pain
As mentioned above, the cause of your triceps pain will determine the best treatment path. But no matter what, it's always best to consult a doctor before you try any treatment method and if your pain persists for longer than a few days.
Generally, the first step in alleviating your triceps pain involves pausing the activity or sport that caused the issue in the first place, per Tufts Medical Center. Often, triceps injuries are caused by overuse, so completely stopping the activity is the first step in alleviating pain.
When your tendons or muscles are swollen, ice can help bring down the inflammation. So, apply ice to the painful area every 3 to 4 hours for 20 minutes at a time, recommends Tufts Medical Center.
3. Anti-Inflammatory Medicine
Anti-inflammatory medicine, like ibuprofen, can help reduce pain and swelling. However, this isn't a long-term solution, so you shouldn't take these over-the-counter medications for extended periods of time, as doing so may cause chronic kidney disease, per the National Kidney Foundation. Follow the package directions for your proper dosage and if your pain persists after a few days, your doctor may prescribe alternative medication.
4. Triceps Stretches and Exercises
Sometimes, your doctor may recommend gently stretching the muscle or performing strengthening exercises. Often, this can help promote blood flow to the area and help prevent future injury. Or, your doctor may even recommend physical therapy.
But before you try any stretching or strengthening, it's best to ask your doctor what movements are best and if this treatment is safe for your injury.