Triceps Tendinitis

Ovid: 5-Minute Sports Medicine Consult, The

Triceps Tendinitis
Clint Beaver
David E. Price
Robert L. Jones
  • Inflammation of the triceps tendon at or above the insertion onto the olecranon
  • Classically an overuse injury due to repetitive extension of the elbow or extreme force placed on the tendon
  • May result from direct trauma
  • Uncommon, but higher prevalence observed in certain groups (see “Risk Factors”)
  • Male predominance of 2:1 (1)[B]
  • Has been described through a wide range of ages (1)[B]
Risk Factors
  • Commonly associated with posterior impingement presence of loose bodies, or classic tennis elbow
  • Activities such as hammering, weightlifting (specifically pushups and dips), throwing (baseball), platform diving, and playing guitar
  • Use of anabolic steroids may also predispose to injury.
General Prevention
  • Proper form when lifting weights
  • Avoid excessive weight or force when utilizing triceps.
  • Appropriate stretching prior to repetitive use of triceps or weightlifting
Inflammation or swelling of the triceps tendon due to excessive force or repetitive use
Commonly Associated Conditions
  • Olecranon bursitis (2)[C]
  • Triceps tendon rupture (1,3)[B]
  • Increasing pain in the posterior elbow over several weeks that worsens over course of the day and associated with occasional morning stiffness
  • Improvement can be seen with periods of inactivity.
Physical Exam
  • Pain in the posterior elbow
  • Pain on full extension/flexion of the elbow
  • Swelling at or above the tendinous insertion
  • Weakness with extension of elbow
  • Tenderness at or above the triceps insertion onto the olecranon
  • Swelling in the same area
  • Increased pain with resisted extension of the elbow
  • Weakness with elbow extension (may be indicative of tendon rupture)
Diagnostic Tests & Interpretation
  • Anterior/posterior and lateral plain films may be helpful; specifically may be useful to evaluate for tendon avulsions (2)[B].
  • US may be useful in distinguishing between triceps tendonitis and olecranon bursitis if the physical exam is unclear; may also show calcifications within the triceps tendon (3)[B].
  • MRI is rarely needed.
Differential Diagnosis
  • Olecranon fracture/stress fracture
  • Olecranon bursitis
  • Triceps rupture
  • Subtendinous bursitis
Ongoing Care
Follow-Up Recommendations
Return to sport/activity when no longer tender at or above tendon insertion, strength regained, and full range of motion
1. Vidal AF, Drakos MC, Allen AA. Biceps tendon and triceps tendon injuries. Clin Sports Med. 2004;23:707–722, xi.
2. Blankstein A, Ganel A, Givon U, et al. Ultraschall Med. 2006.
3. Rineer CA, Ruch DS. Elbow tendinopathy and tendon ruptures: epicondylitis, biceps and triceps ruptures. J Hand Surg [Am]. 2009;34:566–576.
727.09 Other synovitis and tenosynovitis

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