Pain in both triceps

by Jared

I am a 26 year-old male, very active in sports and weightlifting. Almost 4 months ago, I started having severe pain in my right tricep that presented itself when reaching behind me or extending the elbow behind my back. However, this increased over the course of a few days to the point where the pain (a sharp, burning, tingling sensation, from the back of the elbow about halfway up my upper arm)happened with any sudden arm movement, even with the arm swinging while walking. Doctors thought I had a tricep strain, was given anti-inflammatory,and had an MRI which came back normal.

The pain lessened after several weeks and I then began physical therapy. The therapist had concerns with my posture and identified my neck as a possible source of the issue. I am guilty of being a self-manipulator in the past but have since smartened up in terms of this behavior. After giving the okay to return to the gym, and after a few light lifting days, I am now having the same severe, burning pain in my other tricep, presenting the same way as it had on the original arm. My question is if you think this is a spine-related issue. I have been searching desperately for answers or possible treatments to help with this. Thank you for your time.

Hello Jared,
Thank you for a nicely presented question.

I'm glad you've stopped manipulating your own neck; it graunches the cartilage because you can't simultaneously distract the spine, and inevitably leads to an irritated nerve.

So, yes it could be your neck. Also the pain you describe certainly sounds like nerve pain.

Was the MRI of your arm or neck?

Do any movements of your neck, particularly turning to the same side and simulaneously looking up cause pain in the neck or tingling in the arm?

Using the search function at C-H type in upper limb tension test and let me have the result. Difficult when you have symptoms in both arms, but try it anyway.

Try pricking your arm. Are there any sensory changes? Did your doctors find a change in the triceps reflex?

The triceps is the most commonly affected muscle when a nerve in the neck is irritated; it's worrying that you have it in both arms.

Let me have some answers, keeping to this thread.

Dr B

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Aug 21, 2014
More Info
by: Jared

Dr. B,

Thank you for your response. As far as the bilateral symptoms are concerned, it's almost as if something as shifted as my right arm is almost completely pain free, although it has taken a few months. The pain in my left tricep didn't start until the right arm was almost healed.

I tried the upper limb tension test to the best of my ability, relieving only positive signs of nerve issues on my left side. I can actually reproduce pain along the nerve path just by dropping or pushing on my left shoulder or by leaning my head over to the right side.

The MRI that I had was on my tricep, showing no results. My physical therapist had been working on my neck with massage, postural adjustments, and traction. I didn't have any changes in reflex and there is nothing unusual from pricking the arm. I really don't have any significant loss of strength either. I'm also on an anti-inflammatory but have been since problems started with the other tricep. From what I'm seeing, I'm really thinking that it's a pinched nerve in my neck, probably from a combination of bad ergonomics and past self-manipulating. I'm just hopeful that it can be fixed non-surgically with time, postural adjustments, and physical therapy. Again, thank you so much for your time.

Hello Jared,
Yes, I hope so too. After a period if you aren't getting results, see a different PT, or even a chiropractor! We all have our different skills and one helps one patient better than another.

Don't start clicking your neck again!

Dr B

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