Nobody wants to suffer through the trials of tennis elbow when all that you want to do is get back on the court. Your arm is stiff, it hurts when you raise your arm, and even simple actions like holding your racquet can feel impossible. Worse, there goes any chance of winning your next match.
Luckily, a long with a tennis racquet that is designed to help with Tennis Elbow, a Tennis Elbow brace can often provide immediate relief.
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While Tennis Elbow can often get better by itself, there’s no need to soldier through unnecessary pain. An elbow brace can provide relief and support on your road to recovery and help prevent future flare-ups if your Tennis Elbow is a recurring condition.
Tennis Elbow, known clinically has lateral epicondylitis, is a type of tendonitis. It’s caused by overusing the muscles and tendons around your elbow involved in straightening your wrist. It might be named for players of racquet sports, but anyone who performs a repetitive arm motion can be at risk, from carpenters to violinists. Strain causes small tears in the muscles, which leads to inflammation, stiffness and pain. This is where a Tennis Elbow brace comes in.
Although they come in dozens of different designs, all elbow braces work in fundamentally the same way. The brace wraps firmly around the elbow joint, providing the muscle additional support and stabilising the join. By relieving the worst affected areas from further strain, you can help your arm to heal without having to stop playing completely. There are three main types of Tennis Elbow brace:
This is both the most effective and most complicated kind of elbow brace. Epicondylitis clasps comprise a small plastic clasp that circles the arm, fastened by a strap with a discrete pressure point that presses into the muscle half an inch below the affected area. By pushing directly into the tendon or muscle attached to the lateral epicondyle, the clasp absorbs some of the stress undergone by the muscle when it moves. This compression also alters the angle at which the tendon pulls, relieving the overused part of the joint and allowing the injured area to recover.
The benefits of epicondylitis clasps are very straightforward – they apply targeted support to the forearm precisely where it is needed – and this makes them extremely effective. However, they must also be fitted very precisely to be of any use. After all, precision support won’t do the wearer much good if it is all directed to the wrong part of the arm, so you’ll need to seek guidance from your physiotherapist on how and where to position one.
Epicondylitis clasps are perfect for high-level athletes and pros who can’t avoid putting their elbow under further strain and need the best support available.
The simple elbow strap is the kind of brace that you’re most likely to see on or around the court. An adjustable strap – sometimes with additional padding – is wrapped firmly around the forearm a little way below the elbow. By compressing the upper forearm as the arm moves, some of the forces transferred through the muscle tissue are relieved. Like the epicondylitis clasp, this also alters the angle at which the tendon works, relieving the overused part of the joint and allowing the injured muscle to recover.
The benefits of the elbow strap lie in being simple to fit, adjustable and inexpensive. As they’re larger and affect a more generalised area, you don’t have the positioning difficulties associated with an epicondylitis clasp. However, that lack of precision does make them less effective. They also fail to retain heat in the affected area, which is a distinct benefit of the elbow sleeve (see below). This is the best option for most casual or regular players already suffering from Tennis Elbow.
Even simpler than the elbow strap is the elbow sleeve. The sleeve wraps around the entire joint and provides compressive support to the upper arm and forearm on either side of the elbow. A tightened band around the upper forearm provides more targeted support, in the same way as an elbow strap.
The major difference with the elbow sleeve is of course the sleeve itself, which supports the whole joint. A player with more than one arm injury may find that the generalised support of the tennis sleeve will aid multiple conditions at once. The sleeve also provides localised warmth and traps heat around the injured area. New injuries and milder strains can respond well to heat, and this may promote more rapid healing in the muscle. Disadvantages of the elbow sleeve include the fact that it is more cumbersome to play in, which will put some players off using it in matches. It is also less precise than a dedicated strap or clasp, so if you’re suffering from intense pain an elbow sleeve may not quite do enough. Sleeves are suitable for most players recovering from Tennis Elbow and may be of additional benefit to anyone suffering from general injuries to the arm.
When selecting your Tennis Elbow Brace you need to consider the severity of your symptoms and the manner in which you’ll be using it to play. If your symptoms are severe, then an elbow sleeve is unlikely to do you much good, but if your condition is mild – or you’re looking to keep an old injury from returning – then wearing a Tennis Elbow Sleeve regularly may be just the thing to keep you playing as usual. Elbow straps with extra padding are often more effective than their cheaper counterparts, but their bulkier build can be more awkward to play in, so if you’re at the tennis club all day every weekend, then something less obtrusive might be needed. An epicondylitis strap is usually the best option – being effective and lightweight – but they need to be professionally fitted and can slip out of position during a game. That’s fine for Roger Federer perhaps, but not all of us have a trainer waiting for us off court.
Although elbow braces can be an enormous help to managing your condition, they do not actively help you to recover. An elbow strap will ease pain and reduce stress upon an injured area, allowing it to heal faster. Lightweight elbow sleeves, on the other hand, can be worn regularly for long-term protection by those at high risk of repetitive strain injuries. However, neither of these kinds of braces should be a licence to keep playing on through the pain and avoiding a proper recovery. Always remember to step the intensity down a little and allow your arm time to heal. If symptoms persist, consult a doctor.
Elbow straps are pretty simple pieces of kit, so it’s no surprise that there are dozens of different designs available, all with a bewildering array of adjustable straps, gel pads and trademarked high-tech materials. Here are some of our favourites:
Ionocore® Elbow Support Brace
If your Tennis Elbow is causing you some pain, but you still want to play the odd match without hampering your score, then the ionocore® Elbow Support Brace is a great choice. “One size fits most”, this elbow strap comes with a compression pad large enough to be effective without needing constant adjustment, and comes in an affordable two-pack, so you won’t be caught out if you leave one in your gym bag.
No one can deny that the Ionocore Elbow Support Brace does the job, but for anything more than very occasional use there are more effective and more comfortable options available. It’s best to think about just how much time it will be spending on your arm before you buy.Get it on Amazon
SIMIEN Elbow Brace and Sleeve Compression Combo
If you’re still relatively new to Tennis, but don’t want that twinge in your elbow to stop you from progressing, then SIMIEN’s elbow brace may have the answer you need. Perhaps playing with the elbow sleeve alone will be enough to stave off the injury your worried about? Or maybe using a sleeve and strap in combination gives you the perfect result? These comfortable, well-designed braces come together in a value set, allowing you to experiment and find the treatment that works best for you.
If you don’t know quite what you need, then this set is a way to try out various options without breaking the bank. The strap itself is quite bulky, but this is balanced out by being easier to fit, which makes it ideal for a new player.Get it on Amazon
Mueller’s HG80 has been on the market for years and is still one of the best straps going. It comes in two sizes with adjustable straps for an ideal fit and is made from a comfortable, breathable, lightweight material that avoids many of the comfort and irritation issue that can plague cheaper straps. It’s sleek, fashionable design even comes with light-reflective stitching, to make you really stand out on the court.
Although the price is a little higher, the HG80 is a durable, well-made brace with a deserved reputation. Its compact, lightweight design makes it much more suitable for players who will be wearing it a lot. However, the more discrete gel pad makes correct positioning fiddlier.Get it on Amazon
Bauerfeind EpiTrain Elbow Support
Bauerfeind’s EpiTrain Elbow Support is the ultimate Elbow Brace on the market. Unlike most Elbow Sleeves, the EpiTrain is anatomically designed in seven tailored sizes to provide medical-grade compression without feeling like it’s getting in the way of your movement.
Levels of compression are graduated across the sleeve so that increased pressure is directed towards the part of the elbow where it will do the most good, and the brace comes complete with a removable strap so that you can add extra compression if needed. The knit fabric will adapt to your arm’s motion, ensuring that it’s always perfectly in position and never digs into your skin. The soft, breathable fabric also prevents the skin irritation often caused by cheaper, neoprene sleeves.
For a tennis pro willing to invest in the best, there’s absolutely no comparison to the Bauerfeind EpiTrain Elbow Support. It combines the all-over benefits of an Elbow Sleeve, with the targeted compression of a strap, and uses precision design and high-grade engineering to iron out the usual disadvantages.Get it on Amazon
While Tennis Elbow is an indication that you may want to take a little time to let your arm recover, it shouldn’t be a reason not to step onto a court for months. Elbow braces can alleviate symptoms, aid recovery, and help prevent future injury, just so long as you select the right one. And of course, there are other things you can do to help ensure that you wear yours as little as possible, such as checking how you hold your racket, swapping to a racket with a larger grip, or working with a coach on your technique.