Tri means three, so the triceps muscle is composed of 3 muscles, and bi means two, so the biceps is composed of 2 muscles. A small little fact, if you’re looking to get toned arms, you better get going on those TRIceps, as they take up more of the arm than the BIceps. While the biceps can cause some anterior shoulder pain as it acts as a primary stabilizer for the shoulder when you’re out to the side, the triceps can also be a source of pain and this is where the blog post will be focused today.
The three muscles: lateral, medial, and long head, encompass the back of the arm. The long head of the triceps inserts into the back portion of the shoulder and shoulder blade and has fascia connections (interlinking) with the teres minor and rhomboid muscles. What this means is that when one isn’t working, the other most likely isn’t either. In patients who do a lot of overhead work, it is common for the long head of the triceps, which helps stabilize the shoulder joint and prevent displacement of the shoulder joint down and back, to be underdeveloped. This underdevelopment means that something else is working more, most likely the medial head of the triceps, which is closest in placement. Therefore, you find a lot of tightness in the medial head of the triceps and poor muscle girth in the long head of the triceps. This can lead to posterior impingement of the shoulder joint, as the triceps isn’t doing the work to stabilize the joint.
What do we do for these patients? It is important to get the fascial link, the muscles that are interconnected into each other, working properly and with good control and coordination. The muscles of the shoulder blade must work to help open up the spaces within the shoulder joint to prevent any type of impingement in the shoulder. You’ll find that most of these patients have dominant posterior deltoids that initiation the shoulder extension/retraction movement instead of the scapular retractors. Isolate these retraction muscles and you’ll be amazed at how fatiguing it can be for these patients. Initiating with the rhomboids will provide neurological overflow to get the long head of the triceps to kick on to help extend and adduct the shoulder joint. Use these tips if you’re TRIing to relieve pain, and you’ll be amaze at how easily you’re able to move that shoulder joint!
– Meghan J., Physical Therapist at Dedham Health