Your triceps muscle is located in the back of your upper arm. The name "triceps" literally means "three heads," and the muscle was given this name because it has three different parts. At the elbow, the triceps tendon inserts on a part of the ulna called the olecranon (oh-LEH-cruh-non).
The triceps muscle helps you to extend (straighten) your elbow. If you tear your triceps tendon, you lose elbow extension strength. You might not even be able to raise your hand above your head against the pull of gravity.
The tendon usually tears at the elbow when the elbow is struck directly, such as during a fall onto the elbow.
Triceps tears are much less common than biceps tears at the elbow. Smoking and use of steroids is associated with an increased risk.
You might notice a lot of bruising, swelling, weakness, or just discomfort. Sometimes this is missed because it can look so much like olecranon bursitis.
It's best to see your orthopaedic surgeon as soon as possible. Your doctor will listen to how the injury happened and examine you. Sometimes an MRI is ordered when there is a question of whether the tear is complete or to what extent the tendon might have retracted, or pulled away from the bone. This is important to know because if the injury was a while ago or the tendon is retracted really far, it could change the plan.
Treatment options depend on your age, occupation, activity level, whether it is your dominant hand, and other factors. Surgery to reattach the triceps tendon to the olecranon bone can restore function quite well. Rehabilitation after the tendon is reattached might include some combination of bracing and therapy.