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Pain referring from triceps trigger points can be felt in the neck, upper trapezius, deltoids, upper arm and the elbow.

Along with its “little helper,” anconeus, the triceps brachii assists deceleration of flexion at the glenohumeral joint and the elbow joint. The radial nerve can be irritated by contracture or spasm of the lateral aspect of this muscle.

Other symptoms can lead to a misdiagnosis of pain felt in the elbow and triceps brachii as tennis elbow, although there is often a connection. 

Triceps trigger points are also often associated with shoulder arthritis and are likely to be part of the self-protection holding pattern that the body instigates in response to the arthritis.

Trigger points in this muscle make it difficult to extend the arm at the elbow. Clients will often report that they cannot rest their elbow on any surface, because of the level of sensitivity and pain.


Triceps Trigger Points

Triceps Brachii - Common Trigger Point Sites


Latin, Triceps = three-headed; Brachii = of the arm

The triceps originates from three heads and is the only muscle on the back of the arm.


Long head: infraglenoid tubercle of scapula.

Lateral head: upper half of posterior surface of shaft of humerus (above and lateral to radial groove).

Medial head: lower half of posterior surface of shaft of humerus (below and medial to radial groove).


Posterior part of olecranon process of ulna.


Extends (straightens) elbow joint. Long head can adduct humerus and extend it from flexed position. Stabilizes shoulder joint. Antagonist: Biceps Brachii.


Radial nerve, C6, 7, 8, T1.

Basic Functional Movement

Examples: throwing objects; pushing door shut.

Long head: Pain at superolateral border of shoulder, radiating diffusely down posterior upper extremity with strong zone of pain around olecranon process, and then vaguely into posterior forearm

Medial head: 5 cm patch of pain in medial epicondyle, radiating along medial border of forearm to 4th and 5th digits

Lateral head: Strong midline pain into upper extremity, radiating vaguely into posterior forearm.


Golfer’s/tennis elbow, arthritis of elbow/shoulder, chronic use of crutches/walking stick, repetitive mechanical activities of arms, racquet sports, aching pain over front of shoulder, weakness in turning palm face upward, shoulder aching.


Repetitive motion injury, throwing/ sports induced (e.g. basketball, tennis), repeated actions with arm, lifting heavy objects with palm upward (e.g. triceps-focused weight training), musical instrument playing (e.g. violin, drums, guitar).

Differential Diagnosis

Radial nerve injury. Ulnar neuropathy. C7 neuropathy (cervical disc).


Teres minor/major, latissimus dorsi, anconeus, supinator, brachioradialis, extensor carpi radialis longus, anterior deltoid. 

Trigger Point Treatment Techniques

Spray and Stretch YES
Deep Stroking Massage YES
Cupping / Vacuum Cupping YES
Compression YES
Muscle Energy Techniques YES
Positional Release YES
Dry Needling YES
Wet Needling YES


General Advice to Clients

Review arm positions for repetitive manual work. Take regular breaks. New tennis racquet/widen grip. Avoid overhead activities.

Self Help

Self-massage techniques can be helpful. A hard ball or a pressure tool can be used to great effect.

Stretching is excellent for disabling trigger points in arm muscles.


Triceps Trigger Points Self Help

Triceps Trigger Points - Try using a hard ball or pressure tool for self massage


Triceps Trigger Points Stretch

Stretching the Triceps


Triceps Trigger Point Stretch

Stretching can be very effective for helping to address trigger points in the arm muscles



  This blog is intended to be used for information purposes only and is not intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment or to substitute for a medical diagnosis and/or treatment rendered or prescribed by a physician or competent healthcare professional. This information is designed as educational material, but should not be taken as a recommendation for treatment of any particular person or patient. Always consult your physician if you think you need treatment or if you feel unwell. 




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