Understanding Why Muscle Spasm In Tricep Occurs

by Will Bozeman

Muscle spasms (also known as muscle cramps, charley horses, or “the knot”) are involuntary contractions of the muscles in your body. They can range from minor twitches to painful and even disabling episodes. One place that can be particularly prone to muscle spasms is the tricep, located on the back of your upper arm. Fortunately, there are ways that you can treat muscle spasms in the triceps. 

However, to achieve effective relief, you need to understand why they occur in the first place. After all, the only way to achieve long-term relief is to treat the underlying cause and not just the symptoms.

Anatomy Of The Triceps

The triceps muscle group is a collection of three muscles near the elbow joint. The muscles are collectively known as the triceps brachii, including the long, medial, and lateral heads. The nerves that innervate the triceps are the radial, axillary, and musculocutaneous nerves. The blood supply to the triceps comes from the radial and ulnar arteries.

The triceps’ primary function is to extend or straighten your arm at the elbow joint. It also helps stabilize the shoulder joint when you move your arm. As such, issues with your triceps can cause pain and discomfort when doing activities that require moving your arm and can limit your range of motion.

Types Of Muscle Spasms 

Muscle spasms can occur throughout your body, but certain activities and conditions can make them more likely to occur in the triceps. This is because the triceps are responsible for many activities like pushing, pulling, and holding. It’s also important to note that there are various muscle spasms. The following are the three types of muscle spasms you should know about:

Clonic Spasm

Clonic spasms are the most common type of muscle spasm. They involve a sudden, sharp contraction of the affected muscle and a quick relaxation phase. Clonic spasms can be painful and may cause you to move the affected limb involuntarily.

Tonic Spasm

Tonic spasms are less common but can be more severe than clonic spasms. They involve a sustained contraction of the affected muscle, which can cause a visible deformity in the affected area. These spasms are usually excruciating and can be disabling.

Dystonic Spasm

Dystonic spasms are the least common type of muscle spasm. They involve a sustained contraction of multiple muscles in different parts of the body. These spasms usually cause twisting or contorting of the affected limb and can be associated with other symptoms, such as abnormal posture. They can also be painful.

Common Causes Of Muscle Spasm In Triceps

Many different things can cause muscle spasms in general. However, the following are some of the most common causes of muscle spasms, specifically in the triceps:

  • Overuse Or Repetitive Muscle Use: Repetitive or overuse of a particular muscle can cause it to become fatigued, which can lead to spasms. Since the triceps are often used for pushing, pulling, and holding activities, they can become overworked if not given proper rest – especially if you do many activities involving the arm or shoulder, such as playing tennis, golf, or lifting weights.
  • Poor Posture: Poor posture can strain the neck, shoulders, and arm muscles. When these muscles become strained, it can lead to muscle spasms in the triceps due to the increased tension in the area.
  • Dehydration: The body requires water to carry out normal functions. Dehydration occurs when the body isn’t receiving enough water. This can happen as a result of not drinking enough water or because of sweating too much. When this happens, it can affect the muscles in the body and cause spasms, including in the triceps.
  • Electrolyte Imbalance: Electrolytes are minerals found in the body, such as sodium and potassium. When they become unbalanced due to certain medical conditions or medications, it can lead to muscle spasms, including in the triceps. It’s also worth noting that electrolyte imbalances can occur as a result of dehydration.
  • Stress: Stress can lead to muscle tension, increasing the likelihood of muscle spasms in the triceps.
  • Lack of Strength: If you’re out of shape and using your triceps muscle too much, it can cause spasms because the muscle is overworked. As such, it’s crucial to build the strength of your triceps to ensure that they can cope with the demands placed on them.

Symptoms Of Muscle Spasm Tricep

Muscle spasms may seem self-explanatory for those who’ve had them. However, a muscle spasm can consist of several different symptoms. With that in mind, the following are the common symptoms associated with triceps muscle spasms. These include:

  • Sudden, Intense Pain in the Affected Area
  • A Cramping Sensation
  • Involuntary Muscle Contractions
  • Reduced Range Of Motion
  • Swelling or Tenderness

When To Seek Medical Attention

Although muscle spasms generally go away on their own with rest, certain instances should prompt you to consult a physician. These include:

  • Severe or persistent pain that doesn’t improve with home treatments
  • Loss of sensation or weakness in the affected area
  • Signs of infection, such as redness, warmth, or swelling 
  • Difficulty moving the arm or an inability to move the arm at all
  • Inflammation or swelling in the affected area

If you’re experiencing more severe symptoms, you’ll want to rule out any underlying conditions that could be causing the muscle spasm.

Diagnosing Tricep Muscle Spasms

If you’re regularly experiencing muscle spasms in your triceps, then you’ll want to have the issue properly diagnosed. A thorough diagnosis will help rule out potentially serious underlying conditions, such as ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis), MS (Multiple Sclerosis), kidney disease, serotonin syndrome, and other neurological disorders.

To diagnose muscle spasms in the triceps, a doctor will request information about your medical history, do a physical exam, and order diagnostic tests, such as:

  • Imaging Studies: X-rays, CT scans, and MRI scans can help your doctor determine if any underlying issues could be causing the muscle spasms, such as a herniated disc or spinal cord tumor.
  • Blood Tests: Blood tests can help identify any underlying infections or vitamin deficiencies that could be causing muscle spasms.
  • Nerve Conduction Studies: These tests measure the electrical activity of your nerves and can help diagnose neurological disorders, such as ALS.

Treatment Options

There are several ways to treat the muscle spasms you’re experiencing in your triceps, depending on how severe they are. The following are some of the conventional and non-conventional methods of treatment for muscle spasms:

At-Home Remedies

At-home remedies tend to be more suitable for mild to moderate muscle spasms. They typically include the following:

  • Rest and Immobilization: In some cases, muscle spasms are simply the result of your muscles being overworked. In this case, the best way to treat the spasms is to rest your muscles and refrain from using them for a few days.
  • Ice and Heat Therapy: Applying a cold pack or hot compress to the affected area can reduce inflammation and soothe the spasms. When your muscles become loose or relaxed, they’re less likely to spasm.
  • Massage: Massage therapy can help relax tense muscles. A massage could be beneficial if you’re experiencing spasms due to poor posture, overworking your muscles, or stress.
  • Painkillers: Many conventional doctors will prescribe painkillers to patients experiencing painful spasms. However, taking prescription pain medications can be risky since many of them come with side effects and can be habit-forming. It’s worth noting that even over-the-counter painkillers may come with some side effects.
  • Stretching and Strengthening Exercises: Stretching and strengthening exercises can help improve your posture and reduce muscle tension, thereby preventing spasms.

Medications And Injections

In addition to painkillers, a doctor might recommend certain injections to help deal with more severe muscle spasms. Just keep in mind that some of these injections may cause side effects, such as allergic reactions. These injections could include:

  • Corticosteroid Injections: Corticosteroid injections can reduce inflammation and decrease pain. They’re usually prescribed for more severe cases of muscle spasms.
  • Botox: Botox injections are sometimes used to help relax the tricep muscles, particularly if a person is experiencing chronic spasms.
  • Hyaluronic Acid Injections: Hyaluronic acid injections can help improve the elasticity of the muscles, which can reduce the occurrence of spasms.
  • Nerve Blocks: Nerve blocks are injections that can help block pain signals from traveling to your brain. This can help reduce the intensity of the spasms and provide temporary relief from pain.
  • Muscle Relaxants: Muscle relaxant injections can help relieve severe spasms by helping to relax the muscles. These injections usually must be administered by a doctor.

Rehabilitation and Physical Therapy

Physical therapy and rehabilitation can help reduce the frequency and intensity of muscle spasms caused by poor posture or physical trauma. A physical therapist can help you identify and correct any underlying physical issues causing your spasms. Rehabilitation usually consists of stretching, strengthening, and cardiovascular exercises. These exercises can help improve your posture and strengthen the muscles, thereby reducing spasms.

Electrical Stimulation Therapy

Electrical stimulation therapy, such as TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) or electroanalgesia, is a non-invasive treatment involving electrical impulses to trigger the muscles to relax by stimulating the nerve endings. Doing so helps block pain signals from traveling to the brain as well as stimulate the release of endorphins. As a result, this therapy can help reduce the intensity and frequency of spasms and relieve muscle pain.


In rare cases, a doctor might recommend surgery if a structural issue in the spine causes the spasms. Depending on the cause of your spasms, the doctor might recommend a spinal disc fusion or nerve decompression surgery.

However, surgery should be considered a last resort after all other failed treatments. After all, surgery is highly invasive and can result in various complications, such as infections, allergic reactions, and nerve damage. Not to mention, it’s the most expensive option and can result in a long recovery time.

Preventing Muscle Spasm In Tricep

When treating muscle spasms, it’s important that you not only address the symptoms but also work on preventing them from happening again. Here are a few tips that can help prevent muscle spasms in the triceps:

  • Postural Awareness: Pay attention to your posture when sitting, standing, or lying down. Poor posture may put unnecessary strain on the muscles of the triceps and cause spasms. As such, simply improving your posture can help reduce the occurrence of spasms.
  • Proper Warm-Up And Cool Down: Before and after workouts, it’s essential to warm up and cool down properly. This can include stretching and light cardio activities. Doing so helps prepare the muscles for strenuous activities and reduces strain afterwards. 
  • Hydration: Ensure you drink enough fluids, as dehydration can increase the risk of developing muscle spasms. 
  • Maintain a Healthy Diet: A diet rich in vitamins and minerals can go a long way toward preventing muscle spasms. Eating foods high in calcium, magnesium, and potassium can help keep your muscles healthy and functioning properly. The following are a few examples of foods that are high in these essential minerals:
  • Bananas
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Nuts and Seeds
  • Leafy Green Vegetables
  • Lean Protein

Effects Of Delaying Treatment

Delaying treatment for muscle spasms can have serious, long-term effects on your body. If left untreated, spasms may become more frequent and intense, leading to a decrease in muscle strength and mobility. Long-term tightness can also lead to nerve damage, which can cause numbness, tingling, or pain in the affected area. In extreme cases, muscle atrophy may occur due to lack of use and blood flow.

Additionally, delaying treatment can lead to increased pain, discomfort, and reduced quality of life. This can make it difficult to perform everyday activities such as walking, sitting, or standing. In order to avoid these risks and maintain a healthy lifestyle, it’s vital to seek medical attention as soon as you start experiencing regular muscle spasms.

Regain Movement Without Tricep Muscle Spasms

One of the issues with the conventional medical treatment of muscle spasms in the triceps is that it needs to be more invasive, or it only addresses the symptoms and not the underlying cause. Neuragenex takes a whole-person approach to treat tricep muscle spasms by implementing a Neurofunctional Pain Management in our Neuragenex protocol. This approach combines electroanalgesia, IV therapy, and personalized lifestyle counseling to target the root cause of your muscle spasms and give you lasting relief.

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