Table of Contents
What Is a Tennis Elbow Injury?
Also known as lateral epicondylitis, a tennis elbow injury happens when the forearm muscles near your elbow joint get strained due to repetitive motion. This kind of injury can cause a painful sensation on the outer area of your elbow since the muscles attached to the lateral epicondyle (the protruding part of your elbow when flexed) are torn and inflamed.
From the name itself, a tennis elbow injury is commonly seen in tennis players due to the repetitive motion that causes stress on the elbow joint, especially during a backhand serve. However, this can also happen to people who repeatedly work with their wrists and arms, such as carpenters, painters, butchers, plumbers, and cooks. Oppositely, a golfer’s elbow happens when the pain is located in the inner area of your elbow.
Here are some situations where the pain from a tennis elbow injury can occur:
- Bending or lifting the arm
- Gripping small objects (pen, pencils, paintbrush)
- Forearm twisting motions (opening the door, opening a jar)
- Difficulty in extending the arm completely.
Usually, a tennis elbow is a self-limiting condition, which means it will get in time without treatment but with the appropriate rest of the affected elbow. However, you may look at these options for faster recovery:
- Resting the injured arm and stopping from activities that involve repetitive arm movements
- Putting an ice pack or any cold compress on the injured area for a few minutes several times a day to alleviate the pain
- Painkillers such as paracetamol could ease the mild pain sensation on your elbow. Ibuprofen and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can also reduce the inflammation in the affected area.
- For more severe cases, undergoing physical therapy may be recommended by your physician since the muscles of the arm and other muscular structures surrounding it may need to be stretched to reduce the pain and stiffness of the injured arm.
- If the conservative treatments mentioned failing, surgery might be done to check and remove any damaged tendon parts.
What Is a Tennis Elbow brace, and Does It Work?
For mild tennis elbow injuries, a tennis elbow brace or strap may be utilized since it was mentioned that these kinds of injuries could heal without treatment but with appropriate rest. So if you can’t find it to stop training or to work for an extended time, then you may use a brace or strap to support your elbow while working or playing sports.
Bracing your injured arm using a tennis elbow brace or strap puts pressure on your forearm muscles, which will then reduce the pressure on the tendon of the affected elbow and will reduce the pain in the injured area. This method also helps increase the range of motion of the arm and elbow to move it around without pain being felt freely. A tennis elbow brace is also a standard treatment for other related elbow conditions like the golfer’s elbow.
When wearing a tennis elbow brace, make sure that your forearm muscles are resting on a cushion before applying the brace from about 10 inches below your elbow bone. With your doctor’s permission, you may opt to wear this up to six weeks and see if the pain subsides afterwards. Avoid wearing this with a wrist splint since this could prevent your forearm from moving and may cause your muscles to weaken due to lack of movement.
However, keep in mind that the painful sensation will usually return once the brace is removed since this method can only provide a temporary relief from pain. And since a tennis elbow can take a long time to heal on its own, it is best to consult your doctor to check for any other factors affecting your tennis elbow injury, as well as to check the severity of the injury to apply the appropriate medical approach for your condition.
Types of Tennis Elbow Brace
Due to its rehabilitating and pain-alleviating effects, numerous tennis elbow braces can be found on the market to treat tennis elbow injuries. However, there are also different types of braces that will depend on the price, as well as the activities that you will do when wearing the support. With this, the tennis elbow braces usually come in three variations — the tennis elbow strap, elbow sleeve, and epicondylitis clasp.
Tennis Elbow Brace. Comes in different varieties but is distinguishable by the simple strap that can be wrapped around the forearm below the elbow. Other modalities to this device involve additional pressure pads that are placed to put pressure on the muscle below the painful area of the affected elbow. Tennis elbow braces work to compress the upper area of the forearm to absorb the forces that will be transmitted to the elbow joint when performing repetitive arm movements. The angle of the tendon also changes to redirect the forces away from the injured elbow for ample recovery time.
- Easy compression adjustability
- Less pressure precision
- Does not retain heat
- Recommended for the general population presenting tennis elbow symptoms
Tennis Elbow Support. Much like the tennis elbow brace, the tennis elbow sleeve, on the other hand, consists of an elbow sleeve with a strap. Combined, this device supports the entire elbow region since the elbow sleeve provides compression and warmth, while the strap works to put pressure on the upper forearm like a tennis elbow brace.
- Provides warmth on the painful area since other muscular structures surrounding the injury may respond well to the heat
- Supports the whole elbow region to accommodate for other injuries
- It May be difficult to wear
- Strap may be less accurate compared to an individual strap
- Recommended for the general population presenting tennis elbow symptoms
Epicondylitis Clasp. Relatively more expensive than most tennis elbow supports, epicondylitis clasps need to be fitted on your forearm accurately for it to be more effective. This kind of support consists of a clasp or clip, made from plastic, and is worn around the arm.
Since the strap has a pressure point, it should be placed centimeters below on the muscle of the painful area of the affected elbow. Epicondylitis clasps also work to compress the upper area of the forearm to absorb the forces that will be transmitted to the elbow joint when performing repetitive arm movements. The angle of the tendon also changes to redirect the forces away from the injured elbow for ample recovery time in tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow injuries.
- More precise pressure points if it is accurately measured with your forearm and worn properly
- More expensive
- Difficult to find the right pressure point if not worn properly
- May move
- Recommended for competitive tennis players looking for precision and support from absorbing forces when training
How to Brace Your Tennis Elbow
- Forearm Measurement. Feel free to skip this part if you are already confident with your purchased brace. However, it is still crucial to accurately measure your arm before purchasing your arm brace to maximize the benefits when using a tennis elbow brace.
To get your forearm measurement, simply put your arm in front of you and straighten it out. Use a measuring tape to measure your forearm, the area a few centimeters below your forearm. On the other hand, you can use a shoelace or string. Proceed to do the same thing, but this time, you may tie the shoelace on the part that it overlaps. Take note of these measurements the next time you’ll be needing a new brace.
- Brace Selection. Different brands sell tennis elbow braces of the same function and benefits. Hence, choosing a brace is only a matter or preference. However, you would want to choose a brace that is comfortable throughout a long period of time and is durable enough to withstand repetitive arm motion.
Some famous brands that sell top quality tennis elbow braces are Simien, Pro Band Bandit, Senteq, Mueller, and Futuro. Nevertheless, if these do not suit your taste, you may still opt for other bands while keeping in mind the precautions mentioned.
- Forearm Preparation. If you’re satisfied with your newly purchased tennis elbow brace, unbox it and read the instructions provided by the brand or seller. Before wearing the brace, make sure that you don’t have any jewellery or watches on your arm and that you’re wearing a short-sleeve shirt or tank top. This will make it easier to slide the device up your arm for the optimal placement. You may also thread the strap through its rings first so that you can easily strap them into your forearm.
- Brace Placing, Sliding, and Positioning. Make sure that the brace straps are loose before sliding it through your arm. Then, with your unaffected arm, guide your injured arm through the brace to ensure that the compression pad is facing inwards and placing pressure on your upper forearm muscles and near the area of discomfort. Slide it upwards and observe if the pad is 3-8 centimeters below the bony bump on your elbow, and away from the cubital fossa (elbow crease) to still promote proper range-of-motion. To check for proper placement, you can make a wiggling motion with your muscles and observe your outer forearm muscles contract.
- Brace Tightening and Adjusting. After properly placing the brace, tighten the strap to a snug and secure feeling. You should feel a bit of pressure but should not be overly tight. Observe if you have any tingling sensation on your arm, as well as numbness or any discoloration on your fingers. If so, loosen the strap and tighten it again but with less force involved. Numerous adjustments can occur, especially if you are inexperienced with elbow bracing or have gotten a new one. Hence, it is vital to choose a brace that fits your personal preference and will address the pain due to your tennis elbow injury.
Recommended Tennis Elbow Braces
1. Simien Tennis Elbow Brace is made to last long from the highest quality of 65% neoprene and 35% nylon. It also works to provide pain relief in the areas of the upper forearm muscles and elbow joint. The compression pad is also made out of gel, which sticks and works better than air pads.
The Simien Tennis Elbow Brace also works for other related arm, elbow, and wrist injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, golfer’s elbow, arthritis, rower’s elbow, fisher’s elbow, and billiard’s elbow. This product can also be used to support the arm and prevent elbow hyperextension in activities such as weightlifting and basketball.
A one-size-fits-all strap is incorporated into this elbow brace. It can alternately be used on the left and right forearm. This product also ensures proper circulation of the arm region since you can easily adjust it due to its hook-and-loop strap mechanism. This can also complement or even replace elbow compression sleeves to provide additional pressure on the affected forearm.
2. Band-IT Elbow Brace is scientifically designed by a world-renowned orthopedic surgeon named Donald Fareed, M.D. to address and relieve the pain of tennis elbow, carpal tunnel syndrome, and other related injuries of the wrist and forearm. It is also effective for people in the workforce such as computer operators, butchers, painters, dentists, reporters, writers, and other occupations involving repetitive arm motion. Unlike other elbow braces, the Band-IT Elbow Brace only needs to be tightened enough to secure its place without cutting off your blood circulation.
3. Mueller HG80 Premium Tennis Elbow Support is a high-performance, moisture-resistant product with an anti-microbial barrier. This product also targets to alleviate the pain and discomfort caused by a tennis elbow injury by compressing the upper forearm.
These factors contribute to the overall comfortable feeling while performing repetitive arm motions in sports such as tennis and golf, both of which are famous for activities requiring strong grips that can lead to forearm and elbow strains.
To wash, simply hand-wash it with cold water and a mild detergent. Do not bleach, iron, or dry clean the Mueller HG80 Premium Tennis Elbow Support.
Life is like a game of tennis; you have to fight hard to earn every point, sometimes you win while sometimes you lose. It’s the fear of losing that inspires us to work hard, just like tennis.
I am a professional tennis player , so i decided to share my experience in my blogs here about the Racquets.