Triceps Tendonitis: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment

Medically Reviewed By : Dr Sravya, MBBS, MS 

What are the Triceps?

The triceps are crucial muscles in the back of your arms. They help you maintain the overall balance of your upper body, give you power for pushing, and extend your arm.

What are Triceps Tendons?

The triceps tendons are the three bands of tissue that attach the tricep muscles to the bones in the elbow and shoulder. They play an essential role in the movement and stability of the arm.

Your muscles are joined to your joints and bones through tendons. They begin in the center of the triceps and connect to the elbow bones, which are fibrous but flexible tissue. However, When you overwork them and don’t give them enough time to rest and heal, they might become inflamed and uncomfortable.

triceps tendinitis

What is Triceps Tendinitis?

Working out or engaging in other activities might cause microtears or minor injuries in your triceps. These microtears are not so concerning. However, they can cause mild muscle aches. And When you are resting your muscles, the body transfers blood and nutrients to that place, which helps them get bigger.

 Nevertheless, if you don’t give your triceps a break and keep training them, more giant tears may occur faster than your body can heal them. It may cause pain. Tears could result in tricep tendonitis and weaken your tricep tendons.

What are the Causes of Triceps Tendinitis?

People who regularly lift weights or play specific sports are more likely to get tricep tendonitis. The condition is also frequently acquired by those who start working out or playing sports and exercise excessively too soon. It’s your body’s way of alerting you that a muscle has been overworking. Moreover, triceps tendonitis develops gradually; it does not occur suddenly. Some common causes of tricep tendinitis are:

1. Overuse or Repetitive Strain

Overusing the triceps muscles or subjecting them to repetitive movements can lead to microtrauma and inflammation in the tendon over time. It often happens to athletes or individuals who engage in activities that involve frequent and forceful extension of the elbow, such as weightlifting, throwing sports, or specific work-related tasks.

2. Poor Technique

Incorrect forms of exercise, particularly those that stress the triceps, can place excessive pressure on the tendon, increasing the risk of tendonitis.

3. Muscle Imbalances

Muscle imbalances, where specific muscles are more robust or tighter than others, can cause abnormal stresses on the triceps tendon during movement, making it more susceptible to injury.

4. Trauma or Acute Injury

A direct blow or sudden impact on the triceps area can cause acute tendonitis.

5. Inadequate Warm-up or Stretching

Not properly warming up the muscles before exercise or neglecting to stretch the triceps after a workout can contribute to tendonitis.

6. Pre-existing Conditions

Certain medical conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, gout, or metabolic disorders, can increase the risk of developing tendonitis.

7. Sudden Increase in Intensity

A rapid increase in the intensity, duration, or frequency of activities that strain the triceps can overwhelm the tendon’s ability to adapt and recover, leading to inflammation.

8. Age-related Degeneration

Tendons tend to become less elastic and more prone to degeneration as we age, making older individuals more susceptible to triceps tendonitis.

9. Genetics

Some individuals may get this condition due to genetics, such as from their parents, siblings, etc. However, there is no clear evidence that genetics play a role in developing triceps tendonitis.

What are the Symptoms of Triceps Tendinitis?

Triceps tendonitis typically presents symptoms that may gradually develop over time or occur suddenly after an acute injury. The severity of the symptoms may vary from mild discomfort to significant pain and functional impairment. Common symptoms of triceps tendonitis include:

1. Swelling

There may be mild to moderate swelling around the back of the elbow where the triceps tendon locates.

2. Pain

Pain is the primary symptom of triceps tendonitis. It usually arises at the back of the elbow, near the insertion point of the triceps tendon on the ulna (the bony part of the elbow). This pain is either a dull ache or a sharp, stabbing sensation. It often worsens with activities that involve bending or straightening the elbow and may also be exacerbated by pressing on the affected area

3. Tenderness

The affected area might be tender to the touch, and pressure on the triceps tendon can elicit pain.

4. Stiffness

Triceps tendonitis can cause stiffness in the elbow, especially after periods of rest or inactivity.

5. Weekness

Individuals with triceps tendonitis may experience weakness in the affected arm, particularly when attempting to perform movements that involve extending the elbow against resistance.

6. Limit range of motion

Due to inflammation and pain, a reduced range of motion in the elbow joint occurs, making it difficult to bend or straighten the arm fully.

7. Crrpitus

Some people may notice a cracking or creaking sensation (crepitus) when moving the elbow, which can be due to inflammation and irritation of the tendon.

8.Pian and activities

Pain often worsens during activities that stress the triceps, such as lifting weights, performing push-ups, throwing, or gripping objects tight

How to Diagnose Tricep Tendonitis

Medical History

The doctor can begin by asking about your symptoms, when they started, and any activities or injuries that may have contributed to the condition.

Physical Examination

A thorough physical examination will assess the strength, range of motion, and any signs of inflammation or tenderness around the triceps tendon and the affected area.


The doctor may gently press on the triceps tendon and surrounding areas to identify tender spots or areas of discomfort.

Functional Assessment

Triceps tendonitis can cause stiffness in the elbow, especially after periods of rest or inactivity.

Ultrasound Exanmination

Individuals with triceps tendonitis may experience weakness in the affected arm, particularly when attempting to perform movements that involve extending the elbow against resistance.

How to Treat Triceps Tendinitis?

1. Rest

Rest can be an effective treatment for tricep tendonitis because it heals the affected tendon and reduces the risk of further injury. When the triceps tendon is inflamed or irritated, resting the affected arm can help reduce inflammation and relieve pain. It speeds up the healing process and prevents the condition from worsening.

2. Compression

It helps to relieve pain and inflammation. Compression can help improve blood flow to the affected area when the triceps tendon is inflamed or irritated. It can help speed up the healing process and reduce pain.

 Reduction may involve using a compression bandage or sleeve to apply pressure to the affected area. However, it’s important to use compression carefully and not apply too much pressure, as this can cause further injury.

3. Ice

When the triceps tendon is inflamed or irritated, applying ice to the affected area helps reduce swelling and numb the site, which can help relieve pain. Ice can also help reduce the affected area’s metabolic activity, which can help reduce inflammation and promote healing.

 You can apply ice to the affected area for 15–20 minutes several times daily. However, using ice carefully and not applying it directly to the skin is essential, as this can cause skin damage.

4. Anti-inflammatory Medicines

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or naproxen, can be an effective treatment for tricep tendonitis because they can help reduce inflammation and relieve pain.

 NSAIDs block the production of certain chemicals in the body that cause inflammation. However, using NSAIDs carefully and not taking more than the recommended dose is crucial, as this can cause side effects such as stomach upset or kidney damage.

5. Corticosteroids Injections
They speed up the healing process by reducing inflammation and pain. Corticosteroids work by blocking the production of certain chemicals in the body that cause inflammation. However, it’s essential to use corticosteroid injections carefully and not receive them too frequently, as this causes side effects such as skin thinning, weight gain, or an increased risk of infection.
6. Physical therapy

Physical therapy helps to reduce pain, strengthen the tendons, and improve the range of motion in the affected area. A physical therapist might help develop a personalized exercise program to help manage symptoms and promote healing.

This program may include exercises to improve flexibility, strength, endurance, and techniques to reduce pain and inflammation. Physical therapy may also include manual therapy techniques, such as massage or joint mobilization, to help improve circulation and promote healing.

7. Surgery

Surgery may be helpful in cases where conservative treatments (as mentioned above) have failed to relieve symptoms or if the triceps tendon is a complete tear. In these cases, surgery may be necessary to repair the torn tendon and restore normal function to the arm.

The surgeries used to treat tricep tendonitis include tendon debridement, which involves removing damaged tissue from the tendon, and tendon repair, which involves stitching the torn or damaged tendon back together.

 In cases where the tendon has wholly ruptured, a tendon graft may be necessary to replace the damaged tendon with a healthy one from another part of the body. These surgeries are typically performed under general anesthesia and may require a period of immobilization and physical therapy to help restore normal function to the arm.