How I Treated Snapping Triceps Syndrome

My Approach to Treating Subluxating Ulnar Nerve and Snapping Triceps Syndrome

Note: My E-BOOK discussing these conditions is now available. I’ve posted an update at the bottom of this article. The information in this post is limited – it is only about my experiences earlier in the year (2013) with initially treating this injury. I’ve learned much about subluxating ulnar nerve and snapping triceps syndrome since, so the information in this post will only be a fraction of the “whole picture”.

Months ago, I began performing certain exercises again after a long, 4-year lay-off. Coming back from injuries and being able to move again is great, until you realize you have other injuries to worry about.

When performing pushups, namely, I noticed that I felt a weird snapping in the medial side of my elbows. Whenever I’d descend, I would feel an odd sensation, and when I’d push back up, I’d feel the snap. It was all very odd, somewhat disgusting, and very annoying.

After reading up on some stuff I found online, I realized I had snapping triceps syndrome. As defined by researchers at the University of Michigan Medical Center, the elbow snapping represents either of two occurrences:

  1. Medial dislocation of the medial head of the triceps muscle over the medial epicondyle during elbow flexion“, which is known as snapping triceps syndrome, and…
  2. Abnormal movement of the ulnar nerve out of the cubital tunnel and over the medial epicondyle during elbow flexion“, which is known as subluxating ulnar nerve.

So, either my ulnar nerve or my triceps tendon were snapping over my funny bone whenever I was doing pushups. Excellent.

Anyway, what else that was awesome about this is that I learned that that continual aggravation of the elbow with this “snapping” could either damage the triceps muscle/tendon or the ulnar nerve, depending on which condition is present. Excellent, again.

One other bit of information that I found quirky was that up to 16% of the population experiences this kind of injury. 16% is a HUGE part of the population. If you look on the internet for “snapping triceps treatment”, you will find that there’s very little understanding of this injury in the medical profession and, subsequently, no cure. How can this many people have this seemingly unprovoked injury, yet doctors don’t know the cause or have a solution to it?

I sought to find the answer for this injury. At this point in time, I wrote the post titled “Fighting Elbow Pain“, talking about my experience once I began to see progress. If you just want to see what I did to fix my snapping triceps syndrome, continue reading.

Soft-Tissue Work And Massage

I followed Eric Cressey’s advice, who believes soft-tissue-work is paramount for most elbow issues. What he specifically recommended was active-release technique (or, ART) and Graston technique. Both modalities break up scar tissue and adhesions, relax overactive muscles, and improve blood-flow to the regions being worked on.

Here’s an example of the Graston technique being perform (warning, this stuff is kind of gross):

I found a chiropractor who performed these sports-medicine-style therapies. The areas that I had treated were the triceps muscle, the forearm muscle, and my pec minor. After discontinuing the sessions with the chiropractor who went Medieval on my body, I continued to massage the areas on my own.

Here are some demonstrations of the massages I did on my own.

Forearm massage.Triceps massage.

The first picture is of me massaging my triceps, and the second is of my massaging my forearm muscles. I used a lacrosse ball against a wall, as the density and lack of “give” in the ball is perfect for beating up muscles and tissue.

I also massaged my pec minor, which I did not take pictures of. So, here is a video I found online that basically demonstrates what I did to my pec minor.

When doing any of these massages, I made sure to dig deep into my muscles, and not go easy on myself. Soft-tissue work and sports-medicine massage is not supposed to feel good or relaxing, as its purpose is to break down scar tissue and and adhesions. So, it’s supposed to be uncomfortable. I mean, that’s at least how I felt when I received Active-Release Technique and Graston Technique. That stuff hurts!

One word of warning: be careful as you work near the elbow – for anyone who’s bumped their elbow before and feel their “funny bone” go crazy and their fingers go numb, the same deal can happen here. The ulnar nerve is very close to the surface around the “snapping” region. Make sure to work on the muscles AROUND the region, not work ON the region.

KT Tape For The Elbow

I’ve read some success stories with a product called “KT Tape” before, so I was curious to see if it’d help my snapping triceps syndrome.

KT Tape for snapping triceps syndrome treatment.

KT Tape is this elastic sports tape that can be used on different areas of the body to help with various ailments. My chiropractor explained to me the different ways that this product SUPPOSEDLY works. First, the elasticity of the tape can stabilize loose joints, or provide a stretch-reflex (which would deload the joint and discourage excessive range-of-motion). Second, the tape “pulling” at your skin as you move can provide proprioceptive feedback, which can help “turn on” muscles.

With the help of a second person, I used the technique shown in this video (which is actually for Golfer’s Elbow) to tape up my elbow. I tried doing it on my own – that didn’t work out too well.

As a side-note, this stuff adheres for the longest if you wash the skin with soap first, fully dry it off, and rub the tape on the skin after it is applied. KT Tape will stay on for days, even with daily showers, if you use the proper methods of applying it on.

After trying this, I was able to do knee-pushups without issue. I was completely “aware” of my elbow as I was exercising, preventing myself from going into too much elbow flexion. This literally stopped the snapping in my elbow. The stretch-reflex, the proprioceptive-feedback – all of it was helpful as I was now able to perform limited, albeit functional, exercise.

I definitely recommend KT Tape for just injuries in general, as I’m sure it’s helped me with snapping triceps and ulnar nerve subluxation, as well as with other injuries I’ve had recently. Plus, you get to choose from a wide assortment of colors! You can pick the color – Winner Green, Stealth Beige, Laser Blue, Epic Purple, Blaze Orange, Jet Black, Solar Yellow, Hero Pink, and Camouflage.

Externally-Rotated Hands And Internally-Rotated Arms.

As I mentioned before, I theorized that the ulnar nerve is under more tension when the hands are pronated (e.g., palms down) and the elbow is flexed. So, what if we’re able to position our joints so that there is more “relief” for the nerve?

I notice that whenever I do pushups with my hands pointed forward (internally-rotated) and my elbows at my sides (externally-rotated), the snapping happens immediately and is feels more “snappy” and forceful.  If I externally rotate my hands a bit (hands pointed at 10 and 2 o’clock) and slightly internally rotate my arms (elbows at 45 degrees), I’m able to achieve more depth, at least to 90 degrees of elbow flexion, while doing pushups.

Working Within Limited Range-Of-Motion

As the elbow approaches around 90 degrees of flexion is when most people seem to experience snapping. I’m not sure why this is the magic number for snapping triceps syndrome and subluxating ulnar nerve, but you can read any message board online where people are talking about this, and you’ll see that 90 degrees is the common denominator.

While this restricts the ability to do the bench press, pushups, or overhead press, it is not impossible to perform these exercises. You can still work between 0 degrees to just before 90 degrees or however deep you experience the snapping. By doing this, you will still maintain some of strength while dealing with this injury – or, that’s at least what I experienced.

What I found to help me find that “sweet spot” of depth before experiencing snapping was to perform each pushup slow, especially on the way down. After a few times of feeling my elbow snap, I was then intuitively able to “feel” for how deep I can go with my range-of-motion. A little experimentation goes a long way.

In Closing

After a few months, I found that I’m rarely experiencing any snapping in my elbow, all while I’m able to increase my functional range-of-motion with pressing exercises – not a lot, but still an improvement. The body is a funny piece of work, but it can beautifully adapt to stress and repair itself over time, if given the proper environment.

I find it to be astonishing that such a large number of people can have snapping triceps syndrome or ulnar nerve subluxation/dislocation. The medical professionals have no answers, cures, or treatments, so sometimes we’ve got to take responsibility in our own hands and figure out what is necessary to fix our bodies. And, in my case, it seemed to work out just fine.

UPDATE!

Back in 2013, I brought up writing an e-book about my experiences with snapping triceps syndrome and subluxating ulnar nerve. Well, it’s finally complete and you can buy it here today. Thank you for being so patient during the process!

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97 Comments

  1. Photo Credits
    Elbow. Author: David Shankbone. commons.wikimedia.com

    • Thanks for this post!
      I’m glad to see that more people are speaking about this problem than when i first got it for 15 years ago. I have ulnar snapping in both my elbows and it actually seems to be genetic since my older brother has it as well. He has snapping tripeps tendon though, which doesn’t give him as much discomfort as i get, but it must be related some how.

      It would be interesting to collect information about people who suffer from this injury in order to see if maybe we have something in common. It could be a poor mobility of the shoulder, triceps, forearm, traps or short nerves that need to be stretched over time? Maybe there is a common denominator?

      • Joel,

        My guess thus far (and hope) has been that it is largely mobility- and soft-tissue-quality-related. Most people in the first-world have crap mobility and posture, sit at a desk for hours, etc. I feel that it is THIS which is our common denominator. However, genetics and anatomical abnormalities may be the cause for the others, because like you, another person commented on how his brother and he both have the same condition.

        But, having a survey is interesting.. I’m going to consider how I can do this. Thank you.

    • This condition has plagued me for my entire life. I go to the gym and try to convince myself that I don’t have a problem, but it is obvious that my left arm is considerably smaller than my right, as the snapping tendon prevents me from properly building muscle mass in not only the triceps, but the surrounding muscles.
      I have been to three elbow specialists. Two of them had never heard of the condition, one of which suggested to just ‘cut away’ what was snapping. I wasn’t comfortable with that. The last guy offered to suture the snapping portion to the non snapping part of my triceps. For reasons not just limited to my lack of confidence in the surgeon, bailed on it, and here I am still left with this problem.
      Unfortunately your article talks about passive strategies. I reckon the only way to fix this properly is through surgery, but that in itself is a huge risk as the condition is hardly recognized in the medical community. If anyone knows of a surgeon who is highly trained in this type of condition, I would be grateful if you could let me know.

      • I know this response is almost a year late, but Dr. Richard Goldner of Duke University seems to be an expert on this condition. He has co-authored medical journals about it and performs surgeries. I cannot speak to his success. I am not a patient of his, as I don’t live anywhere near NC. I would be interested in seeing him though based on his reputation. Hope this helps.

    • Hi, its been a see since i started feeling the symptoms of ulnar nerve moving during pushups. My doc gave me anti inflammatory meds for 3 days and now he asked me to avoid elbow flexion and sleep with a towel wrapped around my elbow during sleep for a week. How long after the injury should go for massages and the exercises you’ve recommended in the treating post before it is too late(muscle wasting). Please let me know and help me out. I feel hopeless. My biceps feel sore now.

      • Balaji,

        As I am not a physician, I cannot comment specifically for your case.

        However, I myself went in for massage therapy and started moving once the pain went away after resting.

    • Hey Mark,

      Just wondering how far (degrees) can you flex your elbows these days before your ulnar nerve subluxes?

      Cheers

      • Hey Mike,

        I no longer experience ulnar nerve subluxation.

        Depending on the movement, I’ll experience mild triceps tendon snapping around 110 degrees of flexion when the triceps is in the middle of an eccentric.

        This happens mostly in dips but not with bench presses, overhead presses, or pushups. I’ve become very lax with my stretching and mobility which is partly to blame.

    • Mark, I think my situation is just a bit different. When I twist my forearm, like using a screwdriver, I feel like bones/tendons near my elbow on the outside are snapping together and there is some pain with it. Any ideas?

      • Sorry for the delay, Tom.

        I cannot comment on your situation other than the fact that when I had wrist issues, I also had a similar phenomena that you describe.

        Someone versed in orthopedics and conservative management (graston, ART, etc.) would probably take a look at the muscles that connect to that region, which I’d believe would be the extensors and the supinators.

  2. Thanks for this informative post! Your blog is literally the only website addressing this issue aside from medical journals and the odd forum post on bodybuilding.com.

    I’ll definitely be trying these wall exercises and massages.

    When you taped your arm, I am assuming that you taped it so that the nerve lied inside the groove in its “pre-snap” position?

    • It’s my pleasure. I was bewildered at the fact that there is little info on the internet about this injury, so I figured my experiences can help others.

      Ahh, yes, another assumption of mine was that the KT Tape helped “hold” the nerve in place. I think it might have, but whenever I used a riskier hand position during pushups at the time, the snapping returned. I’m a little more convinced that the stretch-reflex helped me more so.

      I’m sure there can be a better technique to the KT Tape if holding the nerve in “pre-snap” position is the goal. I’ll be thinking over this.

      Good luck and keep me updated, Justin.

      EDIT: On second thought, the way that the KT Tape is applied seems to apply pressure around the medial condyle (bony area near the nerve) and directs it toward the direction of the other side of the nerve’s cubital tunnel, which is the oleocranon (the main elbow bone). When the ulnar nerve subluxates, it snaps in the OPPOSITE direction, from the cubital tunnel, towards and over the medial epicondyle.

      So, what I am hypothesizing is that the pressure from the KT Tape applied in this fashion counteracts the “snapping” to a certain degree. The KT Tape applies force in one direction, the ulnar nerve subluxation applies force in the other direction, thus counteraction.

      • Hey dude,

        Thought I’d check out your site again and give you an update.

        Using the KT tape definitely increases the range of motion by about ten degrees and helps keep the nerve in place but the nerve will still disclose over the elbow with KT Tape (as I had expected).

        The tape is definitely a solid product but I decided to stop using it…mainly because I have stopped working out altogether due to this injury and I think the tape might have been increasing the numbness even more. My hand (ring/pinky and ulnar side of palm) has been numb for like almost three months so I figured that I don’t want to make it any worse before I get to see the neurologist.
        The sensations are very strange and sort of move around in the hand. Sometimes its more of a numb cramping and other times it feels like an electric shock.

        Also, I would be super interested in reading an e-book on this subject. I am still not sure if my condition is genetic or if I developed it through gaining mass too quickly and caused a muscle imbalance in my arms. Both my arms have ulnar nerve subluxation but its only one hand that is constantly giving me pain/numbness (which is how I discovered the dislocation in the first place). Actually, the dislocation itself was never even bothersome to me and I never had any elbow pain during exercise. One day I just noticed numbness/paresthesia in the arm/hand and it hasn’t gone away since.

        I’ll keep you updated!

      • aaah i just posted a reply but it didn’t go through?

        test

      • Update:

        I tried posting an update here before but it didn’t go through apparently. Anyways, the KT Tape definitely delays the dislocation of the ulnar nerve during a bicep curl motion so that it dislocates PAST the 90 degree point. However, when the ulnar nerve does dislocates while wearing the tape, it dislocates much more forcefully due to the compression.

        It is definitely a solid product but I stopped using it because I believe it was increasing my symptoms of numbness/tingling etc. during the daytime. I stopped lifting weights altogether since this injury anyways.

        My main problem right now is still numbness. The subluxation itself is not really bothersome. If I only had subluxation of the ulnar nerve without the symptoms of numbness/pins and needles then I wouldn’t really care.

        I have found that Flextend and the Flextend exercise program helps quite a bit with the numbness. You can read up on the product or watch their YouTube videos if you wish. Essentially, the CEO/product inventor believes that a muscle imbalance can occur in the arm due to overuse of the flexor muscles (ie. the muscles involved in making a fist and gripping) in the arm from weightlifting, computer use, daily life etc. To counteract this, it is necessary to develop the extensor muscles of the hand/arm (ie. the muscles involved in opening the hand), which are very seldom exercised.

        Basically, the main exercise of the Flextend program (which they call the Palm-up Isolated Exercise) is the exact opposite of a dumbbell curl.

        BTW I am not affiliated with these guys at all. I have just found that their product has been the only thing to actually help with my symptoms.

        Anyways, I would be greatly interested in an e-book on this topic. I am very curious as to whether ulnar nerve subluxation is genetic or developed over time. I’ll update you again here later on!

        • hey Justin, thanks for your info, could you update? I have the same symptoms, subluxing is not painful, but the numbness/tingling is persistent. is flextend still helping/has the numbness gone?

          • Update:

            Flextend didn’t fix the problem for me. In hindsight, it probably made it worse. I had a subcutaneous ulnar nerve transposition a little while ago. It has reduced most but not all of the tingling/numbness. Apparently it can can take up to six months for the nerves to regenerate.

          • Hey Justin —

            I have the same issue–subluxating ulnar nerves in both elbows. An orthopedic surgeon suggested your surgery. How’s your healing going?

          • And did you have the surgery in both elbows?

          • Hey Gabe,

            Both my elbows nerves dislocate. I only had surgery on the affected arm with symptoms (numbness, tingling, aching, twitching, burning etc.) . Its been a few months now so my arm is healed and mobility is 100%. Unfortunately, I think the surgeon screwed up bc the nerve is still sliding over the medial epicondyle. Twitching is a lot worse now (even reaching my back), chronic aching in the palm, and certain fingers shake when I bend them.

            I’m having another surgeon take a look at it. Make sure you get a surgeon with lots of experience in this particular area. And try to have an ultrasound done in addition to nerve conduction test (I didn’t have an ultrasound).

        • Hey Justin

          Just wondering how you’re still gong with this issue, has the surgery resolved it?

          Also curious about your experience with the flextend. I’m using it now. You make mention of it possibly being of hindrance though. Can you elaborate please?

          Thanks
          Joe

  3. Thanks so much for the infor. How many minutes did you do each of the massage and stretching exercises? How many times a day did you do them? How long did it take before you saw some improvement?

  4. Its not worth taking so much time to do all that shit. Just find a good doctor who knows what to do and go for the surgery. The results are very good. I did it myself. And after a year its like it never happened. Now i need to do this to my other hand too but I’m too pussy to go through that painful process for a second time. (yeah it was painful the first few months)

    • In my opinion, I think it is. I personally have a poor capacity to repair soft-tissue injuries, and am not willing to go under the knife. With that said, my condition has improved remarkably (more-so since I wrote this piece), although I’m not at 100% yet.

  5. Hi Mark,

    I have suffered from this injury for years in my left arm. I have learned the point at which the nerve snaps over durring pressing movements so i just limit my range of elbow flexion durring pressing movements such as bench press. I have found nothing on the web other than surgery that cures this problem and even then the surgery outcomes seem pretty poor with people experiencing worse symptoms after surgery for this problem then before. I really cant wait for your ebook on this matter because I think that so many more people have this than even what the stats say, especially weight lifters. Have you also tried nerve stretches or gliding?

  6. I was very excited to see this post. It made me happy that I am not the only one who is suffering this problem.

    I have the exact same problem like you and it happens to me when doing bench press, skull crusher, shoulder press, etc..

    when I put my finger on the “Medial Epicondyle” (see which bone I mean in this link : http://www.assh.org/Public/HandConditions/PublishingImages/Cubital_tunnel1.jpg ) , I can feel something starts to ride onto it when I flex my elbow.

    I am 28 years old, and starting at 10 years and for almost 6 years I used to play martial arts, where we would punch strongly in the air (with no sandbag or anything) and I believe this may have caused my problem, because my problem is in both hands with more in the left, and the martial arts where mainly concentrating on the left arm, so that’s why I linked both.

    I will try the KT tape, I found another product called PerformTex, they have a video over youtube for the golfer elbow technique (same as KT tape). Perfromtex are able to ship to my country. Have you heard of them?

    A doctor told me there is a surgery that can just stitch the nerve in its place, without needing to move it or cut in any muscles, have you heard about it?

    Did using KT tape fix you (made you strengthen your muscles and so protecting the nerve in its place) or is it just making you avoid the snapping?

    • Mohamed,

      We already talked via email, but I’ll respond anyway.

      The KT tape definitely helped keep the ulnar nerve within the cubital tunnel. However, this is not a permanent solution.

      I’ve never heard of the surgery you’re referring to, as most people get ulner nerve transposition (basically, the bicep is cut off, the nerve is placed under it, and the bicep is re-attached). My guess is that your doctor thinks you have a torn Osborne’s ligament (AKA, ligament holding the nerve in the cubital tunnel), and wants to repair the ligament, and not do a transposition. If the ligament is for certain torn, then this would make sense.

  7. I’ve been surfing your site for a while- good posts! As a PT, I would do the following for someone with this syndrome:
    1. Look at posture- If the head is forward, past the shoulders, there is more tension on the nerve coming out of the neck, going past your shoulder, and down your arm (think about trying to decrease all the zigs and zags of the nerve coming out your neck down to your hand.)
    2. look at ulnar nerve tension test (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yiElZUbMyg4) to objectively find out how severe symptoms are.I think this video does a decent job of explaining what it is…
    3. Tell you pushups with a neutral wrist- using a dumbbell.Pushups with wrist extension will increase tension on the nerve, making it more likely to pop out of your ulnar groove.
    4. Check flexibility of anterior neck muscles, pec minor and major- stretch them to avoid any entrapment.
    I think a lot of your ideas were good suggestions. These are just some of mine. Thanks.

    • 1. That makes sense, as there are nerve-gliding stretches that involve the neck and produce tingling in the finger tips. The brachial plexus originates from the neck/chest region of the vertebral column and crosses through the shoulder into the arm, so you are 100% correct that posture will affect it.

      2. I will watch the video a little later. Looks good.

      3. 100% agreed.

      4. 100% agreed.

      These are things that I’ve performed and am including in my e-book regarding subluxating ulnar nerve. Great minds do think alike. If only more doctors and therapists had your mindset…

  8. Hi mark

    I found your post really interesting. I have had this injury for over 3 years now on both arms, and believe that the only way in curing this issue is through either surgery or triceps exercises that avoid aggravating the elbow such as dips or swimming. The injury seems to be genetic, my brother has this as well, and from having surgery 4 times the issue seems to come from the tendon pushing the nerve out its groove. So I have had the nerve moved into another area, and my tendon and bone cut away a tiny bit in order for the popping to decrease, which has helped a lot. I’m afraid doing push ups and bench presses and anything that aggravated my elbow before surgery only made the popping more worse for me. Massaging and taping has never helped me neither, the only thing that did before I had surgery was just not exercising, but for likes of most people with this injury, that is not really a option.

    I look forward to reading your e-book. If you would like to know anything more about my experience with this injury, just ask.

    • Cam,

      Thank you for commenting. A few people have mentioned to me that they believe their ulnar nerve problems are genetic. I have read a study in which some patients going in for ulnar nerve transposition (the surgery I believe you’ve had???) had an abnormality in their elbow anatomy which caused the nerve issues. Unfortunately, this may be the part of the population that surgery will necessary for. I will mention this in my book. So far, I’ve finished the draft, but totally forgot to mention genetics and anatomical abnormalities in it thus far.

      Question – did you always have the snapping? Or was there a time that you were able to do pushups and the like without issue?

      • Yes i had ulnar nerve transposition. I started going to the gym when i was 14, and whenever i did triceps exercises i had a burning sensation on the elbow which was the ulnar nerve. It then became more worse and as i continued to exercise it began to start popping a little bit till it became really uncomfortable. My brother is 12 and he has never exercised and he has popping on his elbow as well so i think its genetic in my case.

        • Cam,

          I found a study somewhere on the internet that had found a percentage of people who had ulnar nerve subluxation had an anatomical anomaly – basically, something with the muscles or ligaments or bone near the cubital tunnel is different than what is normally seen in the average human, and causes the ulnar nerve to be pushed out. Unfortunately, I’m having trouble finding that damn study, but once I do I’ll post it to you in a comment.

          EDIT: I found the study. Here it is.

    • Have you overcome the injury?

  9. hey..thanks a lot for sharing so much info on this topic…couldnt find it anywhere!

  10. Thank you for this, it’s so frustrating to find no information about helping this other than “ice it.”

    For me is only happens on the left elbow. I broke both bones my right forearm in my adolescent years and it healed a little bit crookedly, and now my right hand cannot turn supine as much as normal. I don’t know if this is related though.

  11. I was just diagnosed with this after six years! I’ll be reading your article. I have bilateral snappy triceps and hope your research is my answer. Thank you.

    • I hope my e-book will be of use to you, Daniel! I must admit, the book has been primarily suited for those dealing with ulnar nerve subluxation, as I discovered after a while that it was THAT condition that I had been dealing with, versus snapping triceps syndrome. However, I seemed to have developed minor snapping triceps, after all of this time of dealing with subluxating ulnar nerve. I believe the content I have is relevant to snapping triceps too, so I will simply add an additional chapter to the book. I swear, it is almost complete!!!

    • Hey Daniel, shoot me a message through the “contact me” page. I wanted to message you but couldn’t find your contact info.

  12. Any updates on the book? I am planning to buy it immediately as it is released – I’ve been diagnosed with subluxating ulnar nerve and doctors haven’t provided much help.

    Interestingly, the one thing I’ve found to work, is when another person pushes with his fingers on the nerve while I benchpress the nerve stays in its place and there is no snapping. You’ve had any success with this or don’t know if it could have any long term consequences?

    Also interestingly, there is a single chest exercise which doesn’t trigger the snapping – the standing cable chest press. No idea why, but I am glad I can at least partially work my chest – sadly I haven’t found any triceps exercises like that.

    Hope your book will help more!

    • Tom,

      I finished the first draft around New Year’s and have been slowly revising it and adding stuff since. I’ve been super effing busy with stuff (internship/work, planning a new business, etc.) That’s why there’s been less activity on this website. When the dust settles for the day, I have zero ideas to write about :-(.

      In reference to “holding in the nerve”, I’ve found this to be true as well, and address it in the book. The book is 30ish pages right now, and I’ll be getting it to at least 50 pages of content once it’s done and for sale.

      Thank you for showing interest and stay tuned, bro.

  13. My hypotheses based on what my non-snapping elbow does is not that the nerve just started popping out of the groove but rather its sheath got irritated resulting in thickening and in-elasticity.

    The goal of my efforts is not to try to stretch out the nerve so much that it wont come out of the groove(have tried, failed), but rather to figure out how I can get the sheath to act like the one on the other side which more smoothly slides in and out of groove without irritation. I have given up on trying to reduce the tension the sheath is under, I just want it to be more ‘conformal’ to slide and and out better.

    Thinking this way…first key is to not irritate further. Focus exercise on separate sets for 0-85 degrees and 95-180 (ie, dont snap, ever)… and thinking about how to use heat and perhaps light weight across snapping range followed by ice to affect the sheath tissue quality.

    • Thickening and inelasticity? That’s interesting… I don’t take this angle in the book. I consider one of the causes is the exact opposite of your hypothesis – laxity or damage to the sheath.

      Wouldn’t thickening and inelasticity cause the nerve to never come out of the groove, and even cause compression of the nerve (known as cubital tunnel syndrome)?

      You go it right though – do what you can to avoid the snapping while maintaining whatever strength you’re able to maintain.

  14. Any update on the ebook? I’m scheduled for surgery on the 10th of april. He wants to transposition it under the muscle. Have been reading about this not working very well, and seems symptoms persist or worsens. I feel i will post-pone surgery until I’ve tried the methods in your ebook.

    I was having the same symptoms as Justin who posted above. The subluxing is visible when flexed to 90 degrees, but doesn’t cause really any pain when it moves over the bone. However have been noticing weakness in grip, numbness of the 4th and 5th fingers, and some inner elbow pain. I play guitar, and haven’t been able to play because of the resulting pain (forearm soreness, burning sensation in my elbow).

    Another thing I should add, I had neck, shoulder and upper back pain before the elbow pain, and during. To clarify, the numbness in my fingers came after the neck, shoulder and upper back pain. But i was noticing my elbow getting a warm feeling before everything started happening.

    Had an MRI on my cervical spine, which came back negative. Also went through about 8-10 sessions of PT to help with the neck, shoulder, and upper back pain. I believe my posture was the main problem, he also gave me stretches that helped, but the upper back pain and some neck stiffness is still present. not sure if its related to the ulnar symptoms I’ve been having.

    The physical therapist and I both noticed during the ulnar stretch, a sudden and noticeably loud snapping sound. Im guessing its my tricep

    back to the ulnar nerve..
    The surgeon did a sensation test, which was negative (i could feel it). I asked about the nerve conductivity/EMG test but he said they wouldn’t find anything other than the nerve has an abnormality of some sort. Going to push to have the tests done, or see if imaging can confirm. I feel my symptoms are not severe enough where surgery would help. Im afraid it will be worse from what I’ve been reading!

    Ive been trying the massage with a tennis ball and that seems to help with the pain, but the slight numbness is still there. I also tried the KT tape in the same way the video on here shows, but that made the subluxing more forceful and i think the numbness because more prevalent because of it. I should add, if i pull my tricep outward (i.e away from my body) and try flexing my elbow the subluxing doesn’t happen…I tried seeing if I could use the KT tape to hold it in this position, but it didn’t work out the greatest.

    Anyways sorry for the long post.
    To conclude (<- so long i need a conclusion)
    I don't think my symptoms are severe enough for surgery but i also know that it can really only get worse if ignored…

    If theres anything else you've done please please please! reply with some info. Im afraid of the outcomes to go through with the surgery, but want my normal life back 🙁

    • Marc,

      Sit tight bro, the book is coming along soon enough. I’m starting a coaching business at the moment, and will use my business-entity to publish/sell my e-book (it helps for liability purposes).

      Inner elbow pain and weakness/numbness in the 4th/5th fingers makes sense – the elbow inner elbow is the sight of ulnar nerve subluxation which definitely is irritating to the nerve, and the ulna rnerve innervates the 4th and 5th fingers. If the nerve is damaged or irritated, those fingers would be affected.

      As for the doctors and PTs, helpful ones are hard to find, s good luck with that…

      The ulnar nerve stretched can indeed cause the nerve the subluxate and snap, because it is undergoing tension – the same reason why it snaps during pushups, etc.

      I’ve found the KT tape to be useful to delay the snapping and allow slightly greater ROM during exercises, but snapping will still occur.

      The key is to AVOID the snapping as much as you can, as to avoid further damage. Become more conscious of what activities or ranges-of-motion provoke the snapping, and mindfully avoid it as much as you can.

  15. I recently had a patient with this (+I have it) and was able to give no good advice besides the general orthopedic “transposition surgery may be in your future” line. I am interested in creating a case study out of myself or patient now to address this problem with “non-surgical orthopedics”.

    • Luke, what type of practitioner are you? Allied health? Physician?

      • I am a soon to be 3rd year osteopathic medical student at Touro University in CA. Heading out to Long Island this summer for a year of rotations -> hoping to become proficient at MSK ultrasound then.

    • I am thrilled you’re taking an interest in a study. I was recommended by an ORTHO Ultra Sound Tech(for lack of a better description) to do deep massages to damage the tissue in order for the tissue to rebuild itself. Almost sounded like good tissue healed over bad tissue(not really sure). I’ve been stretching for years now. When I did exercise my triceps, I would experience unbearable pain every now and then when my tendon would snap back into place. I can say without a doubt exercising was a bad idea. I did find that by taking Aspirin it reduced the feeling of my tricep tendons feeling “tight”. What’s worse is I’m feeling snapping and popping in bilateral elbows and knees. Blood test results came in and they said I was a little low on Vitamin D. Besides that, I got the impression from each Doctor that I was “fine” based on MRI and x-rays. However, Ultra-sound results showed there might be denser areas where I’m feeling pain. It’s the best way I can describe it, but I would HIGHLY recommend everyone get an ultrasound on their elbows. This may show something that MRI’s can’t. Good luck.

  16. Hey guys I find that limiting range of motion really helps in preventing the ulnar nerve subluxation. Also do exercises that don’t aggravate the nerve, for example instead of doing skull crushers for tricep isolation instead do either tricep kick backs or tricep isolation holds. Here is a great video on building tricep mass with isometric holds that put ZERO stress on the nerve and requires no flexion or extension of the elbow, here’s the link: http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=BYA1I6lFiDY

    I also picked up a pair of these bad boys from howmuchyabench.net
    http://www.howmuchyabench.net/compression-cuff.html
    They help A LOT for supporting the elbow joint during benching or pressing movements! Also, I am in no way getting paid to say any of this. This is stuff I have figured out by trial and error.

    I’m not going to get surgery, I’m going to work with and around this injury.
    Excited for your book to come soon Mark!

    • Jason,

      Limiting ROM is key. Never try to cause any snapping.

      And those sleeves did end up helping in the long run? I remember you telling me their results were iffy at first. That;s excellent to hear though. One more tool on our belt, so to speak.

      I’ve been super friggin busy, but I promise the book WILL COME.

      • Yes the elbow sleeves have definitely helped. In my opinion they stabilize the nerve a bit in that cubital tunnel and allow for maybe 5-10 degrees of flexion before the ulnar nerve will subluxate under load. You know by limiting ROM it actually saves your shoulders as well, for example doing bench press and going too low will tear your shoulders apart especially if you have long arms! Having longer arms just means that the bar travels further than what is healthy for the shoulder joint if going down to the chest in the eccentric portion of the movement.

  17. I messed up that last reply and should have said that the sleeves make for an ADDITIONAL 5-10 degrees of flexion before subluxation on top of the degrees at which the nerve may subluxate for the given arm.

  18. Avoiding snapping has definitely helped. But one symptom still didn’t disappear – I experience ulnar sided wrist pain every time I grip something or twist (grippers, doorknob, even wrist curls hurt!).

    Is anyone experiencing ulnar sided wrist pain too? If yes, any tips on how to combat it or is it a different injury I happen to have on the same hand? Its been going on for months and I dont know what else to try, even using extensor bands hurts a bit and didnt help much.

  19. I’m so glad I found this. I’ve been having this problem for over 10 years. Even though I’m a women I always used to be really good at push-ups. But then I stopped doing push-ups or any other kind of sports for the arms and shoulders for about 5 years. Then I started to do Ju-Jitsu and after a rigourous training session with lots up push-up at different arm positions, I suddenly started having exactle these problems in my left elbow. The doc said it was tendonitis and gave me some ibuprofen and that was it. Every few years I did some internet search but it is difficult if you don’t know what to search for (as you have noticed yourself, too).

    For me, I ‘m pretty sure, it comes from shortened muscles. My triceps is one of them, but the problem is also with connected shoulder muscles and also with connected muscles in my forearm.

    I’ve started with self massages now and I need to do more stretching. Fingers crossed that it will get better.

    Has anyone else here with the same problem noticed shortened muscles, too? For example, I feel my triceps when I lean forward keeping my lower body vertical with straight arms on the back of a chair. I also feel my left forearm a lot when I stand in front of a wall, turn my hands outwards and upside down and push with straight arms against the wall.

  20. My doctors didn’t call it snapping tricep syndrome but I had this in both of my elbows about 7 years ago. My pinkie and ring finger on each hand would go numb. I ended up having bilateral ulnar nerve transposition surgery. My elbows are better but the nerves are stuck in scar tissue and I now get a popping sound when do push-ups.

  21. Does anyone experience discomfort in their arms when they run long distances? Cos that is what I experience with this problem.

  22. Hi Mark, I’ve been hitting gym since since i was 17, and 2 years ago, when i turned 21, i started to feel this. For the last one year, it aches a lot with the snap. This is not only in first world, of course, i’m in India, but ofcourse doctors simply dont understand my issue. But I’m looking forward to treating it by Ayurveda, if I find some good Doctors.

  23. Great article! I am actually a violinist, and I have developed a pretty severe case of golfer’s elbow in my bow arm (right side). It’s really amazing how doctors have no idea what to do with it. I have been resting for about 3 months, and it’s just as bad as when I stopped playing. I just started noticing this snapping that you are talking about and I’m really worried. I even got a cortisone shot and had no relief from it. I would definitely be interested in an ebook!

  24. Hey guys!

    Thanks for the article.

    I’ve been struggling with this for years in my right arm. Was told surgery was the only fix 10 years ago and decided against it. I see that was likely a wise move as from the stories on here, surgery doesn’t help?

    Question: how is the book? Does it live up to the hype? If it works, I’ll happily pay $10 for the work that’s gone into it…

    • I don’t get it – a lot of people get the surgery and “relapse” almost. Given how drastic and permanent the surgery is, I can’t see how it would fail, but apparently it still does.

      Anyway, about the book – a few folks have bought it already – no complaints yet, I’ve even got some compliments. The first purchaser finished it in one day and enjoyed reading it.

      It’s 52 pages long, about 36 or 37 pages of pure text if you take out the illustrations and images.

      The chapters include the following: an introduction, relevant anatomy, hypotheses as to why I thought my nerve was subluxating, the rehab protocol I used, and a bonus chapter on snapping triceps syndrome.

      Basically, it’s a much more in-depth version of this article that includes more of the “why” and “how” of subluxating ulnar nerve and snapping triceps syndrome.

      I hope that kind of explains it so you know what you’re buying (or not buying).

    • I guess relapse after surgery could be due to surgery only rectifying the symptoms, but not the actual cause or causes. For me it’s shortened muscles that pull on the nerve in a wrong way when they are under strain (e.g., push ups), which results in the nerve moving where it shouldn’t go. That’s why it gets worse the more strain (weight)is on it. After surgery those short muscles, for example, will still be there.
      I’ve also noticed not very long ago, that the area on my left wrist, where my watch usually sits, is slightly indented, as if the muscles/tendons were restricted by the watch strap (which I ususally kept quite lose, so that is unexpected). As everything is connected that probably didn’t help, and might also explain the problems I have with my left wrist when lifting weights or moving it the ‘wrong way’.

  25. I also have this problem, I step in the gym, for overtrain triceps, what I have right elbow, which the vastus triceps, I have very thick is more bloated than the vast rest of the triceps, and the apparently that causes damage to the ulnar nerve, the weirdest is that I did not have it before, and seems to have no solution.

  26. I had surgery on my left ulnar nerve last August and it was moved to the inside of my elbow. Tingling symptoms are gone, however, I was just diagnosed with a loose tricep tendon that was verified by having a MRI. I’m thinking of trying the tape, but has anyone tried a compression elbow sleeve? Will it do the same thing? I have snapping tricep tendon in both elbows and I would like some relief because sometimes my tendons become swollen and sensitive. Any recommendations would be greatly appreciated.

  27. hello everyone,
    I just wanted to leave a comment here if there were other people wanted to know what I went through with these syndrome; cubital tunnel and snapping tricep!

    I had intramuscular ulnar nerve transposition first because the doctor or I didn’t know that tricep was snapping too. Then doctor noticed it did when he opened my elbow, but didn’t do anything to tricep…. about a month later I was in panic when I found out that there was something still snapping!

    So I had another surgery a year later to remove the portion of tricep head.
    I have no problem now, but sometimes my forearm muscle, where my nerve goes through, gets this feeling like my nerve is going to pop out of that muscle whenever forearm gets pumped.

    Now I am facing same surgery, different surgeon…. on my right elbow.

    I’d like to know if anybody had a transposition surgery and doesn’t bother during exercise! That is my main concern..

    Wish everyone get well!

    • I just went to the orthopedic today and found out it’s not my ulnar nerve that’s subluxing, it’s just a piece of my tricep that’s snapping. He told me that he would be cutting out that piece for the operation. Sounds like you had a similar, if not the same, procedure. I’m trying to decide if I want to go through with it.

      Do you think the operation is worth going through? In my case, I’m having no issues with my ulnar nerve, only my tricep that’s forcefully snapping, which he said wouldn’t lead to any long term damage. Is that what he told you? Is there anything else that you noticed that’s different after surgery? I’d love to hear anything you have to say about the procedure to better inform my decision!

    • I think by now, you’ve gone through enough operations to go again. I’ve yet to undergo surgery and at times I wish I would. I haven’t been told by any physician that they can do surgery. Heck, maybe I should go see your doctor since he has experience in the matter. I’ve come to just live with snappy triceps which REALLY SUCKS.

  28. First of all, my sympathies to others who have to deal with this issue. Its frustrating but I hope that we can all find relief eventually. I’m female and have had this problem for a year. It started when I increased my weight doing overhead presses & gained muscle in my triceps and upper body. It has since progressed, not only popping when loaded with weight @ 90 degrees, but it aches after a hard workout and use my triceps a lot. It has progressed to aching after other activities as well. Paddle boarding and running will cause it to ache for days.

    I diagnosed myself with Dr. Google, but the 4th doctor I went to confirmed the problem, the others had no idea. I would suggest finding an elbow specialist and insist on talking to him before you make an appt to see if he is familiar with the condition. First several doctors said “I’m sorry we weren’t able to do anything for you. You can pay at the front desk.” MRI showed nothing. EEG showed nothing. Physical therapy and deep painful massaging seemed to make it worse for me. Resting for 2 weeks didn’t seem to help. If anything I’d suggest sonography to help diagnose it. But keep in mind there is no good cure so you’ll have to decide if it is worth the money.

    One thing that has helped a bit is wearing an elbow pad at night. Dr gave me one that looks like this (http://www.rehabmart.com/product/flotation-elbow-pad-8064.html) but you wear the pad on the inside of your elbow. And avoid bending your elbow into a tight position against your chest. Doesn’t stop the popping or cure anything, but its the only that has helped the aching a bit.

    Another doctor suggested plasma injections. Has anyone had this done? Helpful?

    I lean more toward the genetic theory and since most of us seem to lift weights it seems to be a problem as the muscle mass in the arm increases causing the nerve/tricep structural issue to surface. So decreasing the muscle mass in the arm should cure it? But I’m hopeful and I’m not grabbing the donuts and heading to the couch just yet.

    • Hydro Cortisone shots help out a lot with regards to the pain of popping. Sucks because you’ll feel a lot of pressure in your elbow from the injection but the pain of popping is gone. Only last about a month but it does work.

  29. Just out of interest for all of you that have this problem, is it just one arm or both, which one and are you left handed or right handed?

    • I have it in both arms but my left arm is the worst off. I am right handed.

    • For me, it’s both elbows. I’m right handed and notice it more in my right elbow. A constant popping. Sometimes, my elbow locks up and I need to turn my wrist in order to unlock my arm…sucks.

    • The ache, pain and popping is mainly in my left. I’m right handed and have had some issues with my right, but nothing like my left.

  30. Question: What type of exercises do you guys do to keep your upper body strength? My arms are weak and I need to find exercises to do that will not aggravate my snapping triceps. Any ideas will be greatly appreciated.

  31. Very interesting discussions here in the comments section as well.

    I’ve honestly never had a lot of elbow issues until here recently. I basically never do close-grip bench, but decided to throw it in at the end of a workout and went fairly heavy. All felt ok despite some popping towards the end. I go back to the gym 2-3 days later and hit a heavy bench and I couldn’t even finish the workout because of the tricep pain. All felt fine at first, but the pain went from nothing to workout stopping in a few reps.

    I had immediate numbness in the last two fingers and the whole tricep felt so swollen. Naturally, took a few days off and iced it a few times. Hit the gym a few days later and same thing, snapping around the medial head of the tricep and numb fingers.

    Basic research landed me here, and now I’m left wondering. Will my tricep ever get back to where it was? It seems like most cases are prolonged issues and not after a single incident?

    • Mike,

      I feel like the close-grip bench press is problematic because of how much it winds up the wrist/arm. With elbows at your side and wrists pronated, the ulnar nerve is super taut as opposed to elbows flared or hands supinated.

      I myself and a few others have improved our snapping using stretches, massage, and other techniques used in the protocol in my e-book. Others have no luck and have not improved one bit.

      I recommend avoiding the snapping completely (meaning, do partial ROM for exercises or cut some of the exercises out) and get some soft-tissue work done.

      • Appreciate the response Mark. You can tell I was in a moment of pure frustration in my first comment.

        I’ve been doing a lot of icing, nsaids, and doing slow movements to figure out where the elbow catch point is. Looking forward to reading through the book, despite being a PITA it’s been interesting to learn more about how all these joints work together.

        Naturally, very hard to guess without all the information, but without any history of this being an issue, do you think it’s likely that my elbow will more or less just return to ‘normal’? Given your history and knowledge on these injuries, is it common for a single incident to set this off?

        • Don’t sweat it bro.

          When you read through the book, feel free to ask me any questions you have regarding the info.

          “Naturally, very hard to guess without all the information, but without any history of this being an issue, do you think it’s likely that my elbow will more or less just return to ‘normal’?” – From what I’ve read, heard, and talked about with others, it seems like there’s a fair amount of people who DO get better and DON’T get better.

          Frequently, ulnar nerve subluxation and snapping triceps are coupled together, and occasionally snapping triceps comes about due to an anatomical abnormality. So a fraction of those experiencing this need to get surgery if it never improves. As you can tell, it’s up in there air. Some get better. Some don’t. My case improved remarkably and I only get snapping during the bottom eccentric portion of heavy overhead presses.

          Everyone seems to notice these issues within a single event, but I’m hard-pressed to believe a set of triceps-dominant exercises will just completely ruin your elbow anatomy. I think it manifests itself after months/years of letting mobility and tissue quality go to shit. So it takes time to reverse the said damage.

  32. dear mark first of all thanks to you for putting your effort and time in creating this blog as there is very little information available on the internet.i had a elbow dislocation accompanied by a fracture during a fall in my 8th grade but had completely recovered from that and i am pretty much into bodybuilding and other sports , the thing is i get a click when i bend my elbows even casually beyond 90 degrees in certain position although it very rarely interferes with my bodybuilding, i can do 50 push ups at a time with ease and sometimes during skull crushers or certain tricep exercises i get the click during initial reps but there would be no pain. i consulted my doc who said the treatment is ignore it.but i want to get rid of it completely because iam afraid it would turn into major ulnar nerve snapping afterwards.and cant quit the gym also .taking into account the success of surgery i dont think it would be a wise option .can u suggest something there is got to be some solution .i have dislocated my shoulder once got operated for tears and was back to the gym fully recovered so there is got to be a way for this also may be avoiding the position in which the elbows click. please reply

    • The book I wrote details my experiences and specifically what I did to solve my own case of snapping triceps syndrome and subluxating ulnar nerve (found here).

      Anyway, this article really covers what I did. Stretching and massaging the hell out of every muscle in my arm, forearm, and shoulder, plus avoiding the snapping to prevent any further damage to the area. KT Tape allowed me to use my elbow with less sorry in the mean time and mitigated the snapping for the most part when applied, but was only a temporary solution.

  33. Hi all,

    Great article and info here.

    I think I have the start of both snapping Tri and sublaxation ulnar. I’m constantly restarting gym plans due to this and drives me mad. When curling and lowering I get the ulnar click / pop but it doesn’t always happen… And when it does it actually feels like it’s 2inches down from the elbow bony lump? Is that what others have? My Tri also sometimes get very tight and a gentle click.. Neither of them hurt though.

    Some days everyday tasks cause the click and even holding a bag aches my arm / ulnar nerve. I dont know if it’s related but I get a similar click / tendon popping in my forearm.. Front heading towards to thumb when things get heavy… Lowering Db from bench… Or top portion of pull up… Do you think this is all related?!

    • Ryan,

      First of all, go and see a doctor to get evaluated. No one here is a medical expert.

      Given that the ulnar nerve runs throughout the arm, it doesn’t seem off that you feel the sensation in that particular spot.

      Plenty of people have reported to me experiencing these issues during everyday tasks.

      Again, get it check out before you self-diagnose.

  34. Finally ! I’ve always wondered about my elbow popping during pushups, it’s great to finally find some information on this type of problem. Great site !

  35. Hey mates Jared here, I’m a 6ft 5in 17 year old male, and my dream in life is to become a professional bodybuilder, unfortunately i have had this my whole life in both of my elbow, it is painful and happens when I do push-ups, bench press, dips, over head press, and pretty much any tricep extension exercise in and out of the gym, I can see the tendon snapping in and out of the channel when I hit 90° elbow contraction or extension, iv never pursued the issue befor seeing as I was expecting it to be a puberty effect, but condition has not let up, it’s not brilliant at all, performing push-ups in front of people or bench, they get grossed out and don’t get why it happens. But if anyone knows any university’s, Doctors or professionals on this topic please get back at me! It’s severely hindering my exercise as well and being a everyday annoyance. Thank you!

  36. Hey I would like to say, that I believe it can be fixed, actually I fixed it in my right arm, and only partially in the left, I don’t how I actually fixed since I did a ton of exercises, stretches, and nerve stretching and flossing. But I have a issue on the left arm I fixed the nerve pain and snapping, and the tendon snapping but the part of the triceps still goes over the bone, I figured a lot about this issue since I was violent on myself feeling the nerves and tendons with my fingers, if anyone can help me with this part it would be awesome… Also contact me if you need help yourself.

  37. Marybeth Takach

    Hey.. Love this info… I. Know I have this, it’s visible to the naked eye! (The pop movement by elbow bone) anyway.. Does anyone have symptoms above elbow in the bicep area? I have the typical numb, tingle, burn in 4th & 5th fingers, forearm but also have symptoms above elbow as well I have a stabbing feeling in bicep… It’s seems that since I have a small herniated disc in my neck – the Drs blame that for everything. I’m waiting to see a neuro in August.. Would like to avoid surgery but don’t want to do permenant damage…
    I too lift weights and competed bodybuilding comp in May (bikini division)… However using cellphones, computer, iPad… bring on symptoms worse then anything.

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