Wednesday, December 7, 2011


The triceps have become a special focus for me lately. A week ago, the doctor removed the splint and I have been working on regaining mobility in my left arm. At that time, I could not twist my wrist back and forth. My elbow was at at about a 90° angle, and I could not bend it closer to my body or extend it farther away from my body.

The surgeon told me that I might have my movement back in 3 to 4 weeks. [Update:  Nelson told me that the doctor said 8 to 12 weeks.  I was on meds and did not remember...] I needed to be prepared for the possibility that I won't get my full range of motion back. It has been about one week, and I am pleased with what I have gained so far. Today, I am able to twist my wrist to make my palm face down, and I can twist about halfway in the other direction (palm up). But I have gained only a little bit of movement in my elbow.

I have been occasionally working my trigger points in my arm and it has helped me, especially in gaining the twisting movement toward palm facing up. I found a particularly effective trigger point in the muscles on the outside of the lower half of my forearm that I worked to decrease my pain and increase my flexibility in that area. I have also been careful to not work too much or too hard. My elbow is still fairly swollen, and I need to give it time to heal a little bit before I can do extensive trigger point therapy. I am also still dealing with a fair amount of pain, and it does not take much to overdo it.  

I have wanted to do more research on arms for quite some time. So I guess this is the perfect opportunity for me. I decided to research the muscles that control extending the elbow. This led me to the triceps. 


To me, the triceps are somewhat like a spare bedroom or spare closet in the house. They are useful but they don't seem to get much attention. Because they're located on the back of the upper arm, they are not that noticeable. But there are some very important trigger points in this muscle. 

The triceps is actually one muscle that is divided into three bands. The one on the bottom is wider and the two on the top are narrower. Together, they cover the back of the upper arm. 

There are five main trigger points in the triceps.  (For some good diagrams, see pp. 101-102 in The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook.)

Keep in mind that all of these trigger points are located on the back of the upper arm.  

(1) Triceps number one trigger point is a couple of inches down from the armpit on the inside edge of the arm. It refers pain to the back of the shoulder and the outer elbow. But it can also refer pain to the upper trapezius and the base of the neck, making this a potentially important trigger point when dealing with headaches.

(2) Triceps number two trigger point is located just above the elbow a little to the outside. The muscle is quite thin here, so it does not necessarily feel intuitive to search here for trigger points. Its pain pattern is on the back of the forearm and it sometimes reaches down the entire forearm. It is also a source of pain in the outer elbow, or "tennis elbow."

(3) Triceps number three trigger point is centered about halfway up the back of the upper arm. It causes pain in the back of the upper arm. But it can also cause numbness in the thumb side of the forearm and hand if it presses on the radial nerve. This one was so bad I could hardly touch it when I massaged it today.  So, I am massaging close to it until it settles down enough that I can massage directly on it.  

(4) Triceps number four trigger point is also just above the elbow, but it is located about in the middle.  It sends pain to the elbow, and makes your elbow "hypersensitive" to touch.  

(5) Triceps number five trigger point is an inch or two above the elbow on the inside of the upper arm.  It refers pain to the inner elbow.  It can also refer pain to the inner forearm.  This is sometimes called "golfer's elbow."  

All of the triceps trigger points have the potential to do the following:  

  • cause pain in the fourth and fifth fingers 
  • cause oppressive sense of achiness in back of forearm and in the triceps 
  • weaken the elbow 
  • limit bending and straightening of elbow 

Fortunately, the triceps trigger points are pretty easy to massage.  The hardest part is knowing where to find them.  Massage them with a lacrosse ball against the wall or on a table top.  


  1. Mari, I am enjoying your blog and tips very much. However, I am so very sorry to hear about your accident, after reading about it and seeing that xray every pain point in my body let out a gigantic scream. I will say extra prayers for your recovery. It sounds like you have an excellent doctor and that will meka a tremendous difference. My mom broke her arm when I cam back to UT when B-Jo was diagnosed with breast cancer and even though she was 81 the orthopedist did nothing for her. He didn't pin the arm back to the upper piece, he only put he in a sling and said to take it easy. Then when I questioned about getting her some thereapy when he said it was coming along he refused saying it wouldn't be necessary. She has very limited motion that only make her aging movement that much harder. Yes she is old, but she isn't dead and at that time wasn't close to it, but since this has severly decereased the quality of her life it has shortened it too.
    I miss seeing you and your family. And we miss walking to church. We have to drive 38 miles and it is 65 to the stake in the oposite direction. We didn't go to stake conference this past weekend as it was in the single digits, below zero wind chill and very slick roads.
    Again so sorry for your pain, praying for your blessed healing. And thank you for sharing your first hand knowledge here in this blog. It is now on my list of favorites. Love to you and your family. Your friend, Susan Hunter

  2. Thanks, Susan. So sorry to hear about your mom. I wish her well.

  3. I didn't know about that point for headaches! Hereby adding it to my routine.

  4. WOW, I am very impressed with your blog and information. I would love to talk to you about it! I am actually a trigger point therapist and you make it very easy to understand what to do. I am just amazed that I never found you before! please contact me at so we can talk!

    wonderful information!!!

  5. Hennahair,

    Thanks. I take that as a huge compliment coming from a trigger point therapist.

  6. Mari, your work really is GOOD! Please go ahead and contact me, put "trigger point" in the subject so I dont miss it. I would love to talk to you.

  7. Hi, just found your blog. I discovered trigger points a few years ago after reading Clair Davies.
    I have had a lot of success with many of my trigger points. However there are a few which recur often and are difficult to really nail. Scalenes are really difficult and painful.Trying to make progress with really big trigger points in triceps (TP3) at the moment. I think more people ought to be aware of trigger points and how tackling them can really improve their quality of life. Keep up the good work. Really good sharing information on this.