Throughout my years as a sports doctor, I‘ve seen patients with all kinds of injuries, regardless if they are athletes or not. One of the more common upper body injuries, especially for everyday workers like you is Tennis Elbow, or Lateral Epicondylitis.
Fortunately, there are support braces and equipment you can use to help you carry out your everyday tasks without pain. These might help relieve the tension of the pulling of the muscle of the elbow, however, they are not a substitute for treatment and rehab. Elbow braces are most effective when used in tandem with tennis elbow exercises.
Nevertheless, I‘ve put this guide together to help you find the best tennis elbow brace to support and relieve your elbow pain.
Whether you are playing tennis or typing on your computer, I hope my top recommendations can save you the time and effort of searching for a brace that works for you.
The options above should help. I know there’s a million of elbow braces on Amazon, but the truth is many of them are simimilarily built – so you don’t need to agonize over the details. But I do think its important for you to understand the form factors they come in.
With that, I’ve put together a comprehensible guide to help you decide.
How A Tennis Elbow Brace Works
Before you head onto the vast worldwide web to looking for the best tennis elbow braces there are a few things you should consider.
Knowing the finer details of your injury can help you avoid trying out various braces just to find out that they aren‘t very accommodating to your pain. It‘s important to know that no brace is going to fix the problem, however, they might temporarily reduce the pain.
This buying guide can help you sort out the ins and outs of choosing the right fit.
Our body’s joints are a complex synthesis of muscle, bone, ligaments, and tendons. In the elbow joint the ulna and radius bones in the forearm connect to the humerus bone in the upper arm. The bony bumps you can feel at the distal end of the humerus are called epicondyles. This is where the extensor muscles that control our wrists and fingers connect. The lateral epicondyle is on the outside of the arm while the medial epicondyle is on the inside.
When we talk about tennis elbow, we’re referring to the Extensor Capri Radialis Brevis (ECRB) muscle and its connection at the lateral epicondyle. Pain on the inner side of the elbow may be a result of medial epicondylitis, or golfers’ elbows.
The ECRB muscle helps to stabilize the wrist when the elbow is straight and aids in moving the hand. Any repetitive motion- like typing or swinging a tennis racquet- can put strain on the muscle-bone connection. With repetitive stress or overuse, the ECRB can become weakened, causing tiny tears to form on the tendons that connect the muscle to the epicondyle. This results in the pain, soreness, and stiffness associated with tennis elbow.
A tennis elbow injury is the most common cause of elbow pain symptoms, affecting 1-3% of adults. While men and women are equally affected, those at higher risk of suffering from tennis elbow (aside from tennis players) are those who are commonly engaged in lifting or gripping tasks. Injuries like a hyperextended elbow can also cause it.
There are a variety of different styles of support systems for your elbow joint, each one tailored to a specific activity, pain level, and restricted movement.
These braces are designed to offload the pressure by squeezing on the pressure point. An epicondylitis clasp can be used to help in the treatment of tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis). It helps by applying pressure to the tendon of the ECRB forearm muscle where it attaches to the bone. The counterforce helps reduce strain on the tendon and increase blood flow.
Your choice can differ depending on if you are an athlete or not, if you suffer from muscle soreness or if you really need to accentuate immobility to help alleviate your Tennis Elbow pain.
Top Elbow Brace Brands
After finally honing on one type of brace you need, narrowing down the options is your next step.
Here is a list of the most popular support braces for your elbow injury:
I have included braces from each of these brands in my recommendation list below. All links are to Amazon because I’m a member of the Amazon Associates program.
Types of Elbow Braces
There are many types of tennis elbow support braces out there; choosing the right one will depend on your situation. Are you looking for a brace to reduce pain? Something to keep your elbow immobilized? Below I’ll describe the most popular brace styles to give you an idea of what might work best for you.
One of the best braces for tennis elbow, the slim and efficient design of the compression pad is perfect for someone who engages in a lot of movement during the day. Normally, these pads are designed with a base of absorbent material like EVA, rubber, gel pad, and foam. If you are looking for an increasing amount of support and stabilization to assist the healing process, these compression pads can help keep your muscles relaxed. Depending on the level of your pain and the amount of movement, these pads also are highly adjustable.
Elastic Counterforce Tennis Elbow Brace (Strap Style)
An adjustable Tennis Elbow strap is perfect for lifting, whether you are doing it at the gym or during everyday activities.
This type of tennis elbow band wraps right around the forearm and helps distribute the amount of pressure and reduce pain in your tendons throughout the area. This reduction in tension can help transfer the physical stress and play a part in prohibiting the nerves to send pain signals.
Compression Sleeves For Tennis Elbow
If you notice that your elbow and the area around it seems to swell quite a bit, recovery elbow sleeves can help regulate the body temperature of that area, keep muscle soreness to a minimum, and keep swelling down. It‘s also highly beneficial when it comes to comfort, function, and circulatory effects.
Overnight Wrist Braces
If you strictly need a stabilizer for wrist movement, these braces can be worn while you sleep. They are designed with cotton material and are a bit on the bulky side. You can even add in a splint to help prevent movement while you are sleeping.
Just like with other athletic injuries, athletic tape can help someone engage in their everyday activities (whether you are an athlete or not). the tape promotes compression, support, and stabilization in movement in your forearm muscles.
Tennis Elbow Brace Vs. Sleeve
Whether it’s an elastic band, a neoprene sleeve, or a hinged elbow brace, the objective of a brace is to provide support and protect the elbow during activity. However, people often wonder what the difference is between a tennis elbow forearm brace, like the McDavid 489 Elbow Strap, and a compression sleeve, like the Venom Elbow Brace. Here are some of the key factors of each.
Forearm Tennis Elbow Brace
A tennis elbow forearm strap is the most common type of brace when it comes to tennis elbow. A strap-style brace is a thin band that sits high on the forearm, slightly below the elbow joint. Often these will include a compression pad that is placed on top of the point of pain. Being of a minimalist style, they allow more freedom of movement than an immobilizing epicondylitis clasp brace that would secure both below and above the joint.
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The compression pads in forearm braces put direct pressure on the tendons that attach the ECRB muscle to the lateral epicondyle. By providing pressure right at the point of damage, they reduce vibration and help to absorb that pain-causing force that you would usually feel at the site of tennis elbow. Many tennis players and athletes find that this also helps to improve grip strength.
A smaller brace that fits over the forearm might be better for more extreme or localized pain. People who use forearm braces like the fact that they absorb soft tissue shock and put firm pressure directly on the spot. They also like the lightweight quality of the top brand braces.
Compression Sleeves For Tennis Elbow
For many years compression has been an effective way of promoting muscle health and treating injuries, including tennis elbow. The goal of compression is to relieve pain by applying pressure at the source. You could use athletic tape to promote compression and stabilization, but compression sleeves are a handy tool that makes the job easier. A lightweight, elastic tube, you simply slide a compression sleeve over your elbow joint.
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Sleeves apply pressure to the tendons while also providing support to the elbow joint. Another benefit of compression sleeves is that they regulate the temperature of the area, helping to keep the joint warm. Contrary to cold therapy, this can aid in mobility, reduce muscle soreness, and help to reduce pain and inflammation. Pressure can increase blood flow to the area, which promotes healing.
A tennis elbow sleeve-style brace might be better if you have a dull, throbbing pain that can be felt throughout your arm, not just localized to one particular spot. Those who wear sleeves prefer them to tennis elbow strap braces because they feel less bulky. If you’re looking for all-around support that fits like a second skin over your arm, a sleeve may be the better choice for you.
An elbow compression sleeve is an excellent option for tennis elbow sufferers who don’t want to wear a bulky brace.
For a “best of both worlds” approach, some people choose to wear both a compression sleeve and a forearm brace. Dual-support might be the best tennis elbow brace option for people who experience pain in more than one location.
On the Market for a Brace? Notable Features to Consider
If you think you‘ve found your “dream brace”, take a look at these aspects to help you judge between sleeves and braces, which elbow support is the right one for you.
Ensure Quality of The Elbow Brace
With every medical product you purchase, especially if you‘re dealing with long-term pain, high quality is your number one priority. The durability of the elbow support is also under quality. You want the effects of the brace to last for a long time, especially when you would like to carry out your everyday activities. Before buying, check out the product reviews to see other people‘s experiences with the brace. Also, make sure you are washing and maintaining the brace properly to increase the longevity of its life.
Make Sure It Fits Your Elbow Comfortably
With an adjustable elbow brace, you can modify the compression and fit to relieve pain. Since most Tennis Elbow cases are long-term, it‘s important that not only does the elbow brace fit you for now, it can be adjustable for your pain in the future (which will hopefully be less!). A one-size-fits-all brace isn‘t the ideal one for Tennis Elbow. Most products come with size variations depending on the measurements of your arm.
Consider Your Own Lifestyle
Whether you work in an office or if you have a very physical job, your tennis elbow support system should be considered accordingly. Tennis players can benefit from something sleek, like a sleeve. A bulky brace in the event of a highly active construction job, for example, is not ideal. A medical professional can help advise you on the best type of elbow support.
Check Out Any Additional Features
Some aspects added as a bonus on particular products can really help. Adjustable straps, for example, can be extremely helpful in the long run. There are also some sleeves that have forearm straps for additional control of the level of support. Removable heat packs, ice, and copper-infused materials can also help with the treatment process to get your elbow back to a pain-free state.
Stay Within Your Budget
Not only is price a considerable factor when buying a support brace, so is the warranty on the product. A minimum warranty of 30 days is ideal for you to be able to try the brace out and still return if needed.
Common Questions About Tennis Elbow Braces
Over the years, I‘ve had patients come in and ask me all kinds of questions about Tennis Elbow. To help save you some time, here are the answers of the most commonly asked questions I‘ve heard in my office.
Finding The Best Tennis Elbow Support For You
Daily activities and athletic sports can be pretty painful with Tennis Elbow. Choosing the proper brace can help with tennis elbow treatment and get you back to doing the activities you love, pain-free.
I hope that this guide has helped you pick out the proper brace for your Tennis Elbow symptoms.
If you still experience pain, see your doctor. You should also consider working with a sports physical therapist. Don’t forget about the power of ice when it comes to home treatment.
Resources & References
- Tennis elbow – Adrian E. Flatt, MD, FRC Proc (Bayl Univ Med Cent). 2008 Oct; 21(4): 400–402. doi: 10.1080/08998280.2008.11928437
- The Short Term Effects of Shock-Wave Therapy for Tennis Elbow: a Clinical Trial Study Acta Inform Med. 2018; 26(1): 54–56. doi: 10.5455/aim.2018.26.54-56
- ACSM Sports Medicine Basics: Tennis Elbow
- Determining the Immediate Effects of Counterforce Bracing Versus Kinesiotaping in Patients With Tennis Elbow (LE): ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT02235818
- The Immediate Effects of Orthoses on Pain in People with Lateral Epicondylalgia
- Lateral Epicondylitis (Tennis Elbow) – Columbia University
- Tennis elbow: Strengthening and stretching exercises