Triceps Tendon Tears

What is a triceps tendon tear?

The triceps muscle makes the elbow go straight (extension). It is connected to the bone by a tendon. This tendon can tear (see picture).

What causes a triceps tendon tear?

The triceps usually tears with an injury, either while pushing a heavy weight (like weight lifting or moving something) or a fall. It can also tear from overuse.

What are the symptoms of a triceps tendon tear?

When a person has a triceps tear from lifting heavy weights or pushing a heavy object, or from a fall, then they feel immediate pain. Later they notice that they are weak when trying to straighten their elbow against resistance. 

When a person gets a triceps tear from overuse, they notice elbow pain with pushing that usually does not go away over time.

What how can I tell if I have a triceps tendon tear?

Your doctor can usually diagnose a triceps tendon tear by physical exam. X-rays are needed. An MRI can be helpful.

How are triceps tendon tears treated?

Most people with a complete tear choose surgery to repair the tendon. Without surgery, the person will usually remain weak with pushing or extending the elbow. Complete tears of the triceps tendon are time-sensitive: surgery should be done right away for the best results.

If a person has a partial tear of the triceps tendon, then treatment is usually physical therapy. Sometimes shots are helpful. Surgery is sometimes needed, but not often.