Triceps Brachii: Muscle Pain & Trigger Points

The triceps brachii muscle can refer pain to the arm, elbow, forearm and the shoulder.

Here, you will receive info for self-help!

1. Pain Patterns & Symptoms

1.1 Pain patterns of the triceps brachii

If the triceps contains trigger points, you might experience pain in the upper back, shoulder and arm, depending on the location of these points.

Hence, it can be involved in the following conditions. By clicking on the corresponding link, you will learn how to achieve relief.

To assign your area of pain to the correct trigger point – if present -, just compare the trigger point number – shown as “X.” –   above the pain zone pictures with the numbers in the muscle picture under attachment points.

Triceps pain patterns of the respective trigger points

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Pain pattern Trp X 1

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Pain pattern Trp X 2

3

Pain pattern Trp X 3 & 4

4

Pain pattern Trp X 5

5

Pain pattern Trp X 6

1.2 Symptoms & complaints

Trigger points or a very tight triceps brachii muscle may hinder you from fully extending your arm or it might be painful to do so.

Maybe you will not realize it because you unconsciously keep it flexed permanently and thus prevent the painful extension/straightening of the elbow

Also, any strong extension – pushing against something for example – of the elbow can be painful if you have trigger points in this muscle.

2. Triceps Brachii: Attachment Points

The triceps brachii consists of three parts that fuse together at the olecranon – the bony and peaky landmark at the elbow –.

There is a long part – caput longum -, a middle part – caput mediale – and an outer part   – caput lateralis –.

Its origins are the scapula/shoulder blade and the humerus/upper arm. The “Xs” in the picture below display common areas where trigger points  develop.

Note: X6 lies at the inner side of the triceps and is not displayed below. You will find it by searching for it at the middle section of the triceps at the inner side of the upper arm.

3. Triceps Brachii: Function

The triceps brachii functions as an extensor of the elbow and shoulder joint.

Thus, it straightens the elbow and moves the arm backwards.

Furthermore, is also adducts the arm. In other words, it pulls it towards the midline of your body.

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Elbow extension

2

Retroversion/shoulder extension

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Adduction

4. Triceps Brachii: Trigger Point Activation

Excessive pushing exercises are likely to activate trigger points in the triceps.

Excessive is everything you are not used or adapted to.

You may be new to fitness and overdo it with pushups or the bench press. It also may be that you just increased the weights too fast or did not rest sufficiently.

Especially the long head needs to work hard during these exercises as it not only extends the elbow but also pulls it towards the midline of your body (adduction). The adduction is an essential part of pushups and bench pressing.

On the other hand, if you are an untrained individual it might be already enough to drive an old car with a heavy going stick shift.

In this case you need to pull and push hard on the stick shift – also the pulling activates the triceps, as in this case it goes hand in hand with an extension of your shoulder –.

I want to relieve my pain

5. Triceps: Palpation

It is very easy to feel the triceps brachii.

Pinch the flesh at the back of your arm and you will have the muscle between your fingers.

Now you can feel it from your shoulder blade to your elbow.

  • Furthermore, it helps to form a tight fist, to contract the arm, to extend the elbow and then to feel the course of the muscle – from your elbow up to your shoulder blade.

6. Triceps: Self-massage

I recommend massaging the triceps brachii with a massage ball or with your hands.

Both tools are effective but certain parts are more suited for one tool than others. For navigational issues just use the muscle picture which is shown above.

Massaging the long part of the triceps brachii is done best with your fingers, at least in my opinion.

Pinch the long head – it is the one that runs down from your shoulder blade – and search for tender spots and trigger points.

As soon as you find one, stay there and slowly roll it between your fingers. But be gentle on your hands and do not massage too much. You do not want to end up with strained fingers.

Alternatively, you can massage the muscle as follows:

  • Form your hand like a shovel.
  • Do this with “strong” and contracted fingers.
  • Press with their tips in the muscle.
  • Search for tender areas by pressing in different places in the muscle.
  • Simultaneously bend and extend your elbow.
  • When you find a tender spot, stay there for a while.

Let us move on to massage using a massage ball.

Just place the ball on your muscle and then push it against a wall.

Then search for tender spots and massage them as you roll the ball over the desired area.

You might have to reposition yourself a couple of times to massage the whole muscle.

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Further massage positions for visualization

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Massage the whole muscle. From right above your elbow...

2

... all the way up your upper arm.

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Also make sure to inspect the outer part of the muscle...

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... as well as the inner part.

References

  • Calais-German, Blandine. Anatomy of Movement. Seattle: Eastland Press, 1993. Print
  • Davies, Clair, and Davies, Amber. The Trigger Point Workbook: Your Self-Treatment Guide For Pain Relief. Oakland: New Harbinger Publications, Inc., Print
  • Simons, David G., Lois S. Simons, and Janet G. Travell. Travell & Simons’ Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: The Trigger Point Manual. Baltimore, MD: Williams & Wilkins, 1999. Print.
  • Schünke, Michael., Schulte, Erik, and Schumacher, Udo. Prometheus: Lernatlas der Anatomie. Stuttgart/New York: Georg Thieme Verlag, 2007. Print