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. This arm injury can be caused by overuse or a sudden force on the muscle. Pain in the back of the arm will usually come on suddenly, which can be helped by rest and ice. Read on for more about the causes, symptoms and treatment for a tricep strain.

Symptoms of a tricep strain

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.


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. It can also be caused by overuse and repetitive strain which 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. I can be applied for 10 to 15 minutes every hour during the acute stage which 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.


Play isometric triceps exercise video.