Why You Should Stretch Your Triceps

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Most people don’t realize how sitting at a desk all day long can
really do a number on their shoulders. Many people who sit at a desk
just like you do have a lot of aches and pains, the cause of which, they
really can’t put a finger on. The first time that I was able to connect
the dots was on one of my patients who had these nebulous carpal tunnel
syndrome symptoms.


She had numbness and tingling down into her
right hand and so I was treating her wrist and forearm as usual.
However, I really wasn’t getting anywhere with it. Like most physical
therapists with a carpal tunnel patient, I had the patient doing wrist
curls and hand squeezes with light resistance and then a combo of
ultrasound and ice. Some of you may have had this same treatment. Hey,
for some patients it does address their problems and they get a real
benefit from it. However, this time there was no great benefit. In fact,
the patient felt as though she wasn’t getting anything out of coming to
see the physical therapist.

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At that time, I had to change course
and ask her what exactly she felt would help her the most.  She replied
“I think I just need a good massage”. While I do hear this from many of
my patients, I try not to use the “spa treatment” on them because most
of the time, it doesn’t address the real problem. This time, though, I
felt that my patient was onto something.

I started the massage on
her hand and wrist and when I finally reached her shoulder I started
getting some positive responses from the patient. She directed my to the
back side of her shoulder right where the arm meets the body. As I
massaged her shoulder, she kept telling me that I needed to dig deeper
and deeper and that whatever I was doing felt good. I also got a similar
response as I stripped the muscles on the inside of the arm (there were
actual knots in the medial tricep muscle).

After about 10 minutes
of aggressively kneading and stretching the inside of her arm and
shoulder blade muscles, our session was over and the patient left with
positive comments but no real change in her symptoms at the time. On her
next visit 2 days later, she was scheduled to see a different physical
therapist. Right before he started to work on her he whispered to me
that I needed to “look” at her arm.

When I went into see the
patient there were a couple of bruises on the back side of her shoulder.
“Have you seen the back side of your shoulder?” I asked.

“No”, she replied.
it’s kind of bruised. I think that I may have been a little too
aggressive and I apologize. Is there something I can do for this?” I
asked in a very nervous tone.

“I want the same type of massage you
gave me last time. I have not had any symptoms since you worked on my
shoulder and it feels GREAT!” She stated. I was relieved.

the following may not be true for all carpal tunnel patients, it is true
for anyone who spends the majority of their time at a desk and
computer. Sitting with your arms at your side performing work produces a
constant strain on several muscle groups in order to stabilize your
shoulders and arms. The medial head of the tricep is one of these
muscles. Many of the nerves and blood vessels that supply the hands and
forearms run through or near the inside triceps muscle and their duties
can be decreased when these muscles get short and tight.

I have
since avoided aggressively massaging my patients like this and have
since incorporated triceps exercising and stretches when treating carpal
tunnel patients. The seated overhead triceps extension with light
weights is an excellent way to stretch and strengthen the back of the
arm. There are other stretches and exercises too. If you don’t want to
lift weights you can still stretch the back side of your arm by going
overhead and reaching for the middle of your back. This is an excellent
way to keep the shoulder stretched out and stay limber.

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