What Are the Symptoms of a Torn Triceps Muscle?

Medically Reviewed on 7/15/2021
symptoms of a torn tricep muscle
he most common symptom of a torn tricep is pain in the elbow. Learn more about triceps tendon injuries

The most common symptom of a triceps tendon injury is pain in the elbow. If the injury is minor, it may feel like an ache, but the more serious the injury, the more severe the pain

With a complete tendon rupture, X-ray imaging may reveal signs of elbow fracture with a torn triceps tendon. Other symptoms of a triceps tendon injury may include:

  • Aching in the elbow that increases with movement
  • Sudden, sharp tearing sensation in the elbow
  • Pain and swelling
  • Muscle spasms in the arm
  • Difficulty fully extending the arm

What is a torn triceps tendon?

The triceps brachii is a large, thick muscle in the upper arm that often appears in the shape of a horseshoe and whose main function is to extend the elbow joint. The triceps is made up of three heads: long, lateral and medial.

Triceps muscle tears occur toward the ends of the muscle and may be caused by a direct blow to the elbow due to a fall on an outstretched hand or lifting heavy weights against resistance.

What are the types of triceps injuries?

There are two types of triceps tendon injuries: tendinitis and tears:

  • Tendinitis is most often caused by repetitive motions that put strain on the elbow, such as doing pushups, swinging a bat or tennis racquet, or lifting weights. Overuse of the tendon can cause irritation and inflammation. 
  • Tears are caused by abrupt force on the muscle.

What are risk factors for triceps tears?

Men tear their triceps tendon more than women, almost at a 3 to 1 ratio. However, most people who injure their triceps tendon do not have any risk factors, although chronic illness (such as diabetes and hypothyroidism) increases the risk of injury.

Other risk factors for triceps tear injuries include:

How are triceps tendon injuries treated?

Depending on the severity of the damage, a  triceps tendon injury may heal on its own or require surgery to repair it:

  • Nonsurgical treatment includes resting the elbow and limiting the number of repetitive motions. Applying ice every 20 minutes for a few hours can help reduce triceps irritation and pain. (Remember the R-I-C-E protocol: Rest–Ice–Compression–Elevation of the affected part.)
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen also work to reduce inflammation and pain.
  • Complete tendon tears usually require surgical repair. Surgery should take place within a month of the injury for optimal healing, followed by physical rehabilitation.


Pictures of the 7 Riskiest Workout Moves, and How to Improve Them See Slideshow

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors

Medically Reviewed on 7/15/2021