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.
Triceps tendonitis is characterised by a pain or aches in the triceps area, elbow or shoulder, swelling, weakness, reduced arm movement and a bulge near the elbow.
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.
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, ultrasound and MRI scans may be suggested to confirm the diagnosis.
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.
- Compression: An elastic compression bandage is used to wrap and support the area to reduce swelling. Take care not to wrap too tightly which could constrict the blood vessels.
- Elevation: Keep the affected area elevated as much as possible.
- 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 physiotherapy.
If conservative treatment does not provide relief, surgery is performed. Through surgery, the tendon can be cut and reattached to an area of the elbow called the olecranon (tendon repair) or may require grafting. With grafting, a bone graft (transplanted bone tissue) is placed on the damaged site to fill the gap after removal of the damaged tendon.