Tennis Elbow Braces Overview
Note: We are using the terms tennis elbow brace, tennis elbow strap, and tennis elbow band synonymously. So on this website, brace, strap, and band are all equivalent terms.
The Use of NeopreneA large percentage of tennis elbow braces are made from neoprene. This material works well when in contact with the body. It is used for garments worn in sports, like wetsuits. Neoprene works well in tennis elbow braces in a few different ways. It provides cushioning in the event that the elbow gets bumped. It can take the energy of a localized impact to the arm and spread it across a wider area. And it dampens vibrations when playing tennis and doing other activities. Neoprene is great at providing form fitting compression and does a fine job at limiting mobility. It is excellent at retaining heat around the injury. Remember its use in wetsuits?
Choosing a Tennis Elbow Brace
In choosing a tennis elbow brace, one of the most important considerations is, “How does it fit?” Usually any tennis elbow brace will fit any arm greater than the size of a child's arm and less than the size of a large football player's arm. But sometimes a person with a small arm, such as a petite woman, inadvertently selects a tennis elbow brace that flops around on her arm.
Especially if you will be wearing your tennis elbow brace for a lengthy period of time and in higher temperatures, you will want to make sure that the brace is breathable and absorbs perspiration. And you will probably prefer a lighter weight material, but not so light that it doesn't limit the range of movement at all in the elbow.
With all the claims that are made regarding which tennis elbow brace is the best (and some even say that wearing any brace is bad for the condition), it is important that you monitor the condition of your arm over a week or two. You'll want to make sure that you are indeed getting an ample benefit from your purchase. If you find that it is not working for you, question whether you are using it correctly and consider a different design.
Here is an overview of the various designs in tennis elbow braces. Each design emphasizes a different approach to promoting the healing of tennis elbow.
The Four Basic Brace DesignsMost tennis elbow braces have compression as their primary purpose. The compression is used to keep the inflammation from expanding and to help force the lymph fluid back into the bloodstream. Reducing the swelling also reduces the amount of pain.
Perhaps the most common element of tennis elbow braces is the inclusion of a small padded area on the inside of the band and against the arm directly over the affected tendon, applying direct pressure. That is why the ideal position for tennis elbow brace is 1.5–2 inches below the inside bend of the elbow. You want this brace to fit snugly around the forearm without limiting circulation.
Another purpose of some tennis elbow braces is to limit the mobility of the arm at the elbow. This helps prevent the arm from hyperextending and causing more strain on the tendon and surrounding tissue, and thus more pain. It also helps promote rest in the arm.
When a brace is designed to provide external heat to the arm, it is promoting circulation in that area. That helps the blood bring oxygen and nutrients to the wound and take lymph fluid away from the wound.
To do this, the brace comes with one or more gel packs that can be heated in the microwave and inserted into the brace before wrapping the arm in the brace. Usually this type of brace also allows those same gel packs to be put in the freezer so the brace can also be used to apply an icing treatment to your elbow. This is done to help reduce swelling.
Another type of tennis elbow brace is meant only for applying the icing treatment to the arm. To do this, you put the entire brace in the freezer before wrapping your arm.
In addition to compression, some designers have added magnets to their braces. There are those who swear by magnets in the healing process, but there are no widely respected studies that have proven any effectiveness of magnets in tennis elbow healing.
We have looked into a representative sampling of these variously designed tennis elbow braces and provide a review of them for you. See the links in the side bar on the right of this page.
By the way, almost all the tennis elbow braces come in black. A few come in other colors as well.