The triceps brachii (Latin for “three-headed” [muscle] of the arm) is the large muscle on the back of the human upper limb. It is the muscle principally responsible for extension of the elbow joint (i.e. straightening of the arm). Though a similarly-named muscle, the triceps surae, is found on the lower leg, the triceps brachii is commonly called simply the “triceps”.
The three heads have the following names and origins:
- The “Long head”: infraglenoid tubercle of the scapula
- The “Lateral head”: posterior shaft of the humerus, lateral and superior to the radial (spiral) groove.
- The “Medial head”: posterior shaft of the humerus, medial and inferior to the radial (spiral) groove.
- The fibers converge to a single tendon to insert onto the olecranon process of the ulna (though some research indicates that there may be more than one tendon.)
- Many mammals have a fourth head, the “Accessory head”, which lies between the Lateral and Medial heads. In humans, the Anconeus is sometimes loosely called “the fourth head of the triceps brachii”.
- The triceps is an extensor muscle of the elbow joint, and is an antagonist of the biceps and brachialis muscles. It can also fixate the elbow joint when the forearm and hand are used for fine movements, e.g., when writing.
- The triceps accounts for approximately 70 percent of the upper arm’s muscle mass.
The triceps tendon is the one at the back of the upper arm – as shown opposite. It inserts into the back of the elbow. If you fall onto your hands you can rupture this tendon. If you over-do the weights or try to push something too heavy you can also rupture the tendon or it could become inflamed through over use.
- Elbow pain at rest and during exercise.
- A painful swelling on the back of the elbow.
- Limited mobility in the elbow.
X-ray the elbow
- Apply ice or cold therapy to the injury in the first two days.
- See a sports injury professional for advice on treatment and rehabilitation.
- Use ultrasound or laser treatment.
- Prescribe anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen.
- Prescribe a full rehabilitation programme.
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