Triceps Tendon Tear Specialist

Are you an athlete who participates in sports which causes repetitive load bearing during elbow extension? Have you had a severe fall on an outstretched arm? If so, you may be at risk, or you may have torn your triceps tendon. A triceps tendon tear can cause arm weakness, a bulge in the back of the arm and elbow pain or tenderness. Triceps tendon tear specialist, Doctor Riley J. Williams, provides diagnosis and both surgical and nonsurgical treatment options for patients in Manhattan, Brooklyn, New York City and surrounding areas who have suffered a triceps tendon tear. Contact Dr. Williams’ team today!

What is a triceps tendon tear?

The triceps is the large muscle group that sits on the back of the upper arm. The triceps muscle complex consists of three subsets that converge in the back of the elbow into a single tendon that attaches the triceps muscle to bone. Tears of the triceps tendon may be complete or partial.  A full tear is also referred to as a triceps tendon rupture. Complete tears typically occur when sudden large load is applied to the triceps muscle complex (falls, weightlifting). Some complete ruptures are associated with pre-existing conditions (tendonitis), injuries (partial tears) or drug treatment (oral steroid use, local steroid injections). The triceps tendon is responsible for straightening the arm; when a triceps tendon tear occurs, there is substantial weakness with elbow extension. Triceps tendon ruptures are serious injuries and are rare. Men who participate in sports, and who are ages 30-50 are particularly at risk. Dr. Riley J. Williams, orthopedic elbow specialist, serving Manhattan, Brooklyn, New York City, NY and surrounding areas, has extensive experience in treating a triceps tendon tear, triceps tendon rupture and other elbow injuries.

What are the symptoms of a triceps tendon tear?

Individuals in the New York area who experience a triceps tendon tear or triceps tendon rupture will experience pain and difficulty in maintaining normal elbow function. Other symptoms reported may consist of:

  • A gap in the back of the elbow where tendon is normally located
  • Triceps cramping
  • Slight bulge in the back of the upper arm
  • Unexpected “popping” noise at the time of injury
  • Weakness with arm extension
  • Elbow pain and tenderness

How is a triceps tendon tear diagnosed?

Dr. Williams will ask questions regarding the event of the injury and if the pain is acute or chronic (ongoing). He will inquire about your medical history with regards to prior elbow and arm injuries before he does a physical exam. In some cases, a defect or space can be felt in the back of the elbow where the tendon is supposed to be attached. You may be asked to perform triceps extension tests to discern whether or not the tendon tear is partial or complete. Radiographs are typically ordered to rule out bony abnormalities. Ultrasound or MRI assessment of the tendon is the diagnostic “gold standard” for detecting a triceps tendon tear. An MRI provide images of the tendon, muscle and elbow joint.

How is a triceps tendon tear treated?

Non-surgical treatment:

Conservative treatment methods are reserved for individuals who have suffered a partial tendon tear. In the acute setting, patients may apply ice, and take oral anti-inflammatory medication for a week or two. Partial tears of the triceps tendon may require immobilization for a short period using a splint. Dr. Williams will make this determination once he has evaluated you. Once the local pain and swelling have diminished, Dr. Williams may prescribe physical therapy to help restore normal elbow range of motion and strength. Most partial triceps tendon injuries will heal over 8-12 weeks.

Surgical treatment:

Complete tears of the triceps tendon will require surgery. Surgery to reattach the tendon to the ulna is the preferred method of treatment in order to prevent permanent elbow extension weakness. Surgery should be completed within 1-2 weeks of a rupture. Triceps tendon repair involves reattaching the tendon to the bone by using drill holes or bone anchors. A splint to immobilize the elbow will be necessary for one to two weeks after the operation, followed by the application of a removable brace and physical therapy. A patient typically returns to normal activities within 3-4 months post-surgery.

For more information on a triceps tendon tear, triceps tendon rupture and the treatment options available, please contact the office of Riley J. Williams, MD, orthopedic elbow specialist serving Manhattan, Brooklyn, New York City, NY and surrounding areas.


HSS Sports Medicine Institute West Side
610 W 58th Street
New York, NY 10019

HSS Brooklyn
148 39th Street, 7th Floor
Brooklyn, NY 11232

Office Hours

Monday-Friday: 9:00 am – 4:30 pm
Fax: 212-774-2895