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Triceps tendonitis is inflammation of the triceps tendon, the tissue that connects the triceps muscle on the back of the upper arm to the back of the elbow joint, allowing you to straighten your arm back after you have bent it.

Symptoms

Triceps tendonitis is characterized by a pain or aches in the triceps area, elbow or shoulder, swelling, weakness, reduced arm movement and a bulge near the elbow.

Causes

Triceps tendonitis can occur due to an acute injury or repetitive overuse. Activities that can lead to triceps tendonitis include:

  • Throwing a baseball
  • Using a hammer
  • Performing bench presses
  • Falling onto your outstretched arm

Risk factors for developing triceps tendonitis include using anabolic steroids, medical conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis or diabetes, not warming up properly before exercise and not using proper technique while performing a repetitive movement.

Diagnosis

Your doctor will conduct a thorough examination of your shoulder, arm, triceps and elbow to identify the site of inflammation and the movements that cause pain. X-rays and MRI scans may be suggested to confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment

First-line treatment options include rest, ice, compression and elevation (RICE protocol).

  • Rest: Restrict all activities that irritate or overuse the triceps tendon.
  • Ice: Apply ice packs wrapped in a towel over the affected area for 15-20 minutes at a time to help alleviate pain and swelling. If the pain has been going on longer than a month, switching to heat may be more effective.
  • Compression: An elastic compression sleeve is used to wrap and support the area to reduce swelling. Take care not to wrap too tightly which could veins and lead to hand swelling.
  • Elevation: Keep the affected area elevated when possible, if there is swelling of the hand and elbow.
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may also be recommended to reduce inflammation and pain. If first-line treatment does not work, your doctor may inject a corticosteroid directly into the affected arm, or may recommend a platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injection and physical therapy.
  • NASS
  • Newton-Wellesley Hospital
  • AOSSM
  • AAOS
  • American Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons (AAHKS)
  • Tufts University School of Medicine
  • Newton-Wellesley Hospital