Lateral Triceps Tears

There are two triceps muscles that form the posterior aspect of the shoulder, both attaching their origins to the olecranon and insert on the inferior aspect of the scapular. The lateral triceps is the longest of the two muscles and therefore receives the most strain of the two when the forelimb is in hyperextension. The most common injuries to this muscle are myofascial tears on the midbelly of the muscle, the tear occurs in the fascia which coats the muscle and allows it to move underneath the skin.


The muscle is commonly in a state of hypertonicity as a secondary response to neck, forelimb and shoulder pain which is quite common. This muscle hypertonicity predisposes the lateral triceps muscle to tearing when the horse is in hyperextension such as when galloping or with movement requiring sharp directional change. Therefore on inspection of the muscle it is important to differentiate between a tear and hypertonicity, this can be done through stretching and deep compressions which will release the hypertonicity, where as a torn muscle will initially react to these diagnostic methods. If the muscle is left untreated and stressed than chronic hypertonicity and scar tissue build up occurs in the muscle, on palpation the muscle will not feel as reactive as an acute tear but there can be a longitudinal hard build up of scar tissue which restricts lateral tricep lengthening and cause further stress on tissues such as flexor tendons.


The acupuncture work up is very effective in differentiating between a strain in the muscle and secondary hypertonicity from another region of the body. Proper treatment can then be initiated in which acupuncture can be of primary benefit to the region. Acupuncture is used to restore the chi and blood stagnation locally and to reduce the lateral triceps muscle hypertonicity and pain. By doing this the muscle spindles are reset which allows for muscle lengthening and a reduction in hypertonicity.


Liniments and or ultrasound therapy are used locally to increase heat, reduce hypertonicity and break up scar tissue formation to allow the region to heal, this reduces the chance of re injury in the region by enhancing elasticity of the region. Massaging Parafin oil into the muscle before exercise is beneficial in reducing myofascial restriction and increasing heat to the area which allows muscle fibres to relax and increase blood flow into the muscle.


Passive stretching of the region is another ongoing therapy which can greatly enhance the results. For this injury the affected forelimb is picked up, flexed and drawn forward to stretch the lateral triceps muscle, this can be done both before and after exercise daily. It is recommended that galloping be reduced as to give the strain or tear the chance to recover.

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