Triceps brachii muscle pain & trigger points

The triceps brachii muscle is able to send pain to your arm, elbow, forearm and your shoulder.

1. Pain patterns and symptoms

1.1 Pain patterns of the triceps brachii

If your triceps contains trigger points, you might experience pain mainly in your upper back, shoulder and your 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.

Pain patterns of the respective trigger points

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Pain pattern Trp X 1

2

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.

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

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2. Attachment points of the triceps brachii

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

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

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

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

3. Function of the triceps brachii

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

That means it straightens your elbow and moves your arm backwards.

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

Die Funktionen im Überblick

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Elbow extension

2

Retroversion/shoulder extension

3

Adduction

4. Trigger point activation

Excessive pushing exercises are likely to develop tender or trigger points in your 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 has to work here a lot because it not only extends your elbow but also brings it close/pulls it towards your body.

This pulling your arm close to your body 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 have 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 –.

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5. Triceps Palpation

It is very easy to feel your triceps brachii muscle.

Just pinch the piece of flesh at the back your arm and you have the muscle right between your fingers.

Now you can feel the whole muscle from your shoulder blade to your elbow and get known to it.

  • 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 muscle muscle 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 in my opinion is done best with your fingers.

Just 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 hit one, stay on that place and roll it slowly between your fingers. But be gentle on your hands and do not massage too much. You do not want to end up with strained finger muscles, do you?

Alternatively you can massage the muscle as follows:

  • Form your hand like a shovel.
  • Do this with “strong” and contracted finger.
  • 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.

Ok, 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 get the massage done properly on the whole muscle.

But in the end it will pay off.

Further massage positions for visualization

1

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

2

... all the way up ypu upper arm.

3

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

4

... 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