A tennis elbow brace or tennis elbow strap is a popular aid to the treatment and rehabilitation of tennis elbow. There are a number of different types on the market and we look at how they work and which may be best for you.
Choosing the correct tennis elbow support
Choosing the correct support for you will depend on how much you want to pay as well as the activities you may want to do. Tennis elbow braces come in three varieties; the epicondylitis clasp, tennis elbow strap and elbow sleeve.
These are usually the more expensive tennis elbow supports and need to be fitted correctly if they are to be effective. They consist of a plastic clasp or clip which fits around the arm, secured with a strap with a pressure point over the muscle a couple of cm below the point of pain on the elbow.
The pressure on the tendon or muscle that attaches to the lateral epicondyle absorbs some of the forces that transmit through the tissues causing the injury. It will also change the angle at which the tendon works changing the direction of forces and relieving symptoms of tennis elbow and golfers elbow.
The advantages of an epicondylitis clasp type tennis elbow brace are they can be applied precisely to the point required if fitted accurately. The disadvantages are the high price, sometimes they are difficult to get in the right place and may move. Recommended for a skilled tennis player requiring precision support for high impact forces.
Tennis elbow strap
These are simple strap type tennis elbow braces of various kinds which are wrapped around the forearm just below the elbow. Some have additional pressure pads which are meant to sit on the muscle just below the point of pain on the elbow.
They work by compressing the upper forearm and absorbing the forces which are transmitted through the soft tissues to the point of pain on the outside of the elbow. They also change the angle at which the tendon works at the elbow which changes the forces which are applied to the tendon attachment allowing the injured area time to recover.
The advantages of the tennis elbow strap are they are often inexpensive, easy to fit and the level of compression can be adjusted to suit. Disadvantages are they can be less precise than an epicondylitis clasp and do not retain heat like a tennis elbow sleeve. Recommended for most people with tennis elbow symptoms.
Tennis elbow sleeve
The tennis elbow sleeve combines a simple elbow sleeve with a strap. The sleeve provides compression, support and warmth for the entire elbow whilst the strap is tightened around the upper forearm to work in the same way as a tennis elbow strap.
One advantage of the tennis elbow sleeve is that it provides warmth over the area of pain which may help aid the healing process. Tendons which are not acute or recent injuries respond well to heat. The sleeve also supports the whole joint so if there are other injuries as well as epicondylitis then this support is recommended. The disadvantages of this type of brace are it is more cumbersome to wear and tightening the forearm strap is less accurate than a separate strap. Recommended for most people with tennis elbow symptoms but at the end of the day it comes down to personal preference.