Triceps Strain

Triceps strain

A tricep strain is a tear to the triceps brachii muscle at the back of the upper arm which contracts to straighten the elbow. It is caused by overuse, or a sudden force on the muscle. Here we explain the symptoms, causes and treatment for a triceps strain.

Symptoms of a tricep strain

A tear of the triceps muscle may occur at the back of the upper arm, in the belly of the muscle. Or, more likely a tear occurs near the attachment point at the back of the elbow.

  • Symptoms include pain in the muscle at the back of the upper arm or the attachment points at the elbow or shoulder.
  • There may be mild swelling or bruising over the muscle.
  • Pain is usually sudden in onset and a small popping or ripping sensation may be felt.
  • Extending or straightening the elbow against resistance is may be painful.
  • Tenderness pressing into the muscle is a symptom and stretching the triceps may also be painful.

What is a triceps strain?

Triceps tendinopathy

Injuries to the Triceps muscle usually occur following a sudden force or stretch on the muscle. There is instant pain and sometimes a popping sound or feeling in the muscle. This is not a common injury, although may occasionally occur in weightlifters or sports where rapid, forceful elbow extension is required.

Triceps strains are also caused by overuse and repetitive strain. This weakens the muscle to the point a tear occurs in the fibers.


Immediate first aid for a triceps strain should be rest and apply ice or cold therapy. Ice can be applied for 10 to 15 minutes every hour during the acute stage. This will most likely be 24 to 48 hours initially.

A compression bandage or arm support should be applied to help reduce swelling.

Try to keep the elbow moving gently to avoid stiffening up and once pain-free stretching the triceps muscles should be done.

Isometric strengthening exercises can begin with gentle resisted elbow extension. Isometric or static exercises are done without any movement of the elbow.

This can be progressed to exercises with resistance bands and free weights when ready.

When pain allows strengthening exercises with resistance bands can be progressed. Start very light and build up slowly.

If there is no pain during, after or the next day then increase the number of reps or resistance until bench press type exercises and press-ups can be performed.

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