The Triceps Brachii is a muscle group in the back of the upper arms. We perform many usual tasks and movements involving the Triceps, and at times we even focus on them in our workouts. Such repetitive use can lead to muscle strain. We will review below some ways to prevent strain occurrence as well as some self-care tools that can help recover from a Triceps strain.
The Triceps Brachii (or Triceps), is composed of three muscle bundles or heads that extend from the upper Humerus and Scapula (shoulder blade), converge into one tendon and attach to the forearm bone, the Ulna. The long head of the Triceps attaches to the Scapula, while the lateral head and medial head attach to the Humerus. The Triceps works as an antagonist at both the shoulder and elbow to the Biceps Brachii (Biceps) muscle; that means that when the Biceps muscle is contracting, the Triceps muscle is relaxing, and when the Triceps muscle is contracting, the Biceps is relaxing. The primary movement involving the Triceps muscle is the extension of the elbow and straightening of the arm. Figure 1 illustrates the posterior location of the Triceps on the upper arm, while the attachments are noted in figure 2.
The Triceps strain is usually caused by overuse, excessive workouts, repetitive movements or possibly heavy lifting. Athletes such as baseball and football players are prone to strain, due to the constant throwing motion. Weight lifters are prone to soreness as a result of bench presses. Push-ups are a motion that inflicts tightness in the triceps. Workers that have a repetitive movements such as mail sorters are susceptible to aching Triceps. The resulting symptoms would be sensitivity to touch, pain with movement and restricted mobility.
Treatment for strain of the Triceps can be addressed in several ways. Initially, anti-inflammatory medication, such as Ibuprofen may be advised by your doctor. Ice can be applied in the form of ice packs for 20min at a time. Also, rest or modifying workouts should be considered. Lastly, a massage therapist can assist in recovery by helping decrease tightness in the general area, helping with pain relief and helping to restore normal range of motion.
- It is paramount that the muscles must be warmed up prior to any workout or even routine activity that is out of the ordinary (such as shoveling snow); blood is moved to the muscle area and the muscle fibers are stretched in anticipation of their use. Warm up can be done by bringing the muscle through its natural range of motion several times, without holding or pushing, and without weight. The stretching exercise below can be used as a warm up BUT without holding or pushing with the other hand. The strengthening exercises below can be used as a warm up BUT without any weights.
- Strengthening exercises are helpful to prepare a muscle for repetitive use and decrease chance of injury.
- Stretches can be helpful in maintaining normal range of motion, as short muscles can be more susceptible to injury.
- Self-massage can help reduce soreness and tightness.
Included below are several examples of exercises that can be helpful for Triceps strain prevention.
- kneel on a bench or chair, resting left arm on that bench; raise a dumbbell in right hand to torso level
- extend the arm backwards, contracting the triceps and lower back to 90 degrees
- switch arms and repeat for 8-12 reps, 1-3 sets
- standing (or seated), raise the dumbbells above your head, keeping the arms close to the ears as you bend the elbows behind your head (to 90 *)
- straighten the arms, contracting the Triceps
- repeat for 8-12 reps, 1-3 sets
- sit on a bench or chair with hands braced just outside the hips
- lift up on the hands, lower the hips, bending the elbows (to about 90*)
- push back to starting position, contracting the triceps
- repeat 8-12 reps, 1-3 sets
Bent elbow overhead extension
- raise arms overhead and bend elbows to 90 degrees
- pull elbows backwards, contracting the triceps
- repeat several times
- place foam roller on a table or desk
- roll triceps, from armpit to elbow
- repeat several times
If you believe you have a Triceps strain, see your physician; your massage therapist can also help in the recovery or prevention of Triceps strain.
References (retrieved 6/10/2019):
Illustrations (retrieved 6/10/2019):
This article/video is for educational purposes only; do not attempt without your physician’s clearance. If you are in pain or injured, see your physician.
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