Pain in the back of the upper arm


Pain in the upper arm is not uncommon. The upper arm (also Humerus called) extends from the shoulder joint to the elbow. There are various muscles on the upper arm that can be roughly divided into flexors and extensors. The Flexor (Flexors) are on the front, the Straightener (Extensors) are located on the back of the upper arm. Injuries and strains on these muscles can of course lead to pain in the upper arm. Also Fractures of the humerus (Humerus) are painful. But other muscles are also significantly involved in the movements of the upper arm, namely the shoulder muscles of the so-called rotator cuff. Here too, upper arm pain, for example, can have its origin. The possible causes of upper arm pain are explained in more detail below.


The causes of back pain in the upper arm can be varied.

From an anatomical point of view, the so-called extensors (extensor muscles) are located on the back of the upper arm. A muscular cause of the pain is therefore mostly due to the extensor muscles. The most prominent muscle there is the triceps. But also muscles from the rotator cuff, which are primarily responsible for shoulder mobility, can cause pain that radiates to the back of the upper arm. Typically, this pain is caused by overuse of the muscle groups. Unfamiliar movements can lead to muscle hardening, strains or torn muscle fibers. Increased use of the muscles can cause sore muscles.

Serious muscular injuries, for example from trauma, can also cause pain. Other possible causes of back pain in the upper arm are local irritation and inflammation of the skin. This can be due to insect bites, allergic skin reactions, etc. A fracture of the humerus can also be noticeable as pain in the back of the upper arm.

Triceps pain

The triceps brachii muscle is a three-headed muscle located on the back of the upper arm. It arises with one head on the shoulder blade and the other two heads on the humerus. It continues to the ulna, where all three heads start in a common tendon. Its task is the extension of the elbow joint and one Adduction (Bringing the arm up to the body) and one Retro version (moving the arm backwards) in the shoulder joint. Injuries and disorders of the triceps can cause pain in the back of the upper arm. It is often the injuries that occur during exercise that lead to such triceps discomfort.

Torn hamstring

A torn muscle fiber of the triceps manifests itself as a sharp sudden onset of pain.
Bleeding and structural changes in the muscle cells can be seen. It is a sports injury, but more often it affects the calf and thigh muscles. The movement of the muscle remains painful for a long time in the case of a torn muscle fiber and is therefore restricted, i.e. extending the arm in particular is very painful. A bruise may be visible on the outside, but this is more the case with superficial cracks. If you suspect a torn muscle fiber you should first follow the PECH rule (Pause-ice-compression-elevation), this will relieve the discomfort. Resting is very important. Otherwise, painkillers can be taken if the pain is very severe. An operation is usually not necessary as the muscle fiber tear will heal by itself. An operation may only be necessary in the case of very high functional impairments or in athletes.

Muscle strain of the triceps

A muscle strain is an inadequate stretching of the muscle.

In contrast to a torn muscle fiber, no tears are visible in the muscles. A muscle strain of the triceps is also a rather rare case. It's a sports injury that can mostly happen in bodybuilding or arm wrestling. Typically there is pain in the elbow and the back of the upper arm. A muscle strain does not usually require therapy. However, the arm should be spared and cooled well. The PECH rules are also used here.

Triceps tendon tear

A rupture of the tendon of the triceps is rare. In general, it affects strength athletes such as bodybuilders who use their muscles very hard. In the event of excessive strain or an incorrectly executed movement, but of course also after a traumatic injury, the tendon can tear or at least be pulled.

The tendon tear manifests itself as a sharp pain in the tendon, i.e. in the area of ​​the elbow. However, it can continue down to the upper arm. Some patients report a tearing sound when the tendon ruptures. If the tendon tears off completely, a dent in the elbow area can be seen in the acute stage of the injury. The triceps also curl up a little so that they appear swollen and swollen. The function is lost in the event of a complete demolition. There may also be a hematoma around the elbow.

A tendon rupture is detected on physical exam by closely inspecting the arm and palpating the tendon. Touching turns out to be painful for the patient. The inspection reveals a swelling, a dent in the tendon area, and a hematoma. Imaging procedures such as X-rays, MRI or sonography can also be used.

Conservative therapy primarily involves sparing the muscle or immobilizing it, for example with a plaster cast. Decongestant measures, i.e. cooling, are also very important. Pain reliever and anti-inflammatory drugs can also be taken. Surgical reinsertion of the tendon is also an option. On average, the healing time is about 6 weeks. After that, a careful and slow rebuilding of the original muscle strength should be started.


Fractures are broken bones. The most common upper arm fractures in young people are caused by severe falls, while older people with osteoporosis can suffer a fracture in light falls. Most of the upper arm fractures occur on the so-called Collum chirurgicum. This is a point on the bone just below the joint head. Such fractures are called proximal. That means “close to the trunk”. The pain here is characteristically in the upper arm and mainly affects the shoulder. But also medium fractions (Humeral shaft fractures) and distal Fractures (located at the lower end of the upper arm) are possible. The pain extends over the entire upper arm. You may also see bruises depending on where the bone is broken. If the back of the bone is cracked or broken, a bruise will appear roughly above the triceps. After a few days the bruise will sink into the elbow.
A broken upper arm can be recognized by the patient's posture. He can no longer move his arm properly. X-rays or CT provide information about the exact location of the break. Surgery is usually not necessary for simple upper arm fractures. A special bandage is then sufficient to immobilize the arm. In the case of complicated fractures with mutually displaced fracture ends or splintering of the bone, an operation is necessary to ensure good healing. Depending on the type of fracture, recovery takes between 4 and 8 weeks.

Impingement Syndrome

Impingement syndrome is the painful entrapment of the tendon of the supraspinatus muscle, a shoulder muscle. Lifting the arm is painful. The pain runs from the shoulder to the back and back of the upper arm.


Osteoporosis is a condition that affects the skeletal system. This leads to bone loss. The bone loses its density and stability. Fractures then occur more frequently. But pain occurs even without a fracture. In general, upper arm pain can also be caused by osteoporosis. However, this is more likely to be the case in old age.

Concomitant symptoms

The symptoms that accompany pain in the back of the upper arm depend heavily on the cause of the complaint.

In the case of muscular injuries, the neighboring joints, i.e. the shoulder and elbow, are often affected by the symptoms. There may be temporary painful restrictions on movement. If the injury to the extensor muscles is serious, an extension deficit in the elbow is particularly noticeable.

In the event of trauma, a hematoma (bruise) can also occur at the point of impact. If there is inflammation on the back of the upper arm due to muscular injuries or superficial processes, in addition to the pain, there is also reddening, overheating and swelling of the upper arm. In the case of broken bones, the pain usually does not only occur on the back of the upper arm. Rather, the entire upper arm is affected by the pain.

Local irritation of the skin and insect bites can also be noticeable through open areas or a puncture point on the back of the upper arm and itching.