The elbow moves in both flexion and extension and is also affected by movements of the forearm. Several sporting or other activities can subject the joint to unusual levels of stress. These include throwing or pitching a baseball, for example. Activities that involve repetitive gripping also cause stress to the forearm muscles..These muscles attach to the bony bump (lateral epicondyle) on the outer elbow as well as to the corresponding bump (the medial epicondyle) on the inner elbow. They attach to each bump via tendons on the outer and inner elbow respectively.
Overstressing the forearm muscles can lead to soreness and inflammation of the corresponding elbow tendons. When the outer elbow tendons become inflamed, the result is lateral epicondyltis (tennis elbow). If the inner elbow tendons are similarly affected, the result is medial epicondylitis (golfers elbow). Elbow supports can be used to treat these two conditions.
Despite their names, neither tennis nor golf elbow is exclusively associated with any particular sport. Instead, as mentioned, individuals that perform activities that make use of the forearm gripping muscles are at risk of developing these conditions. Using a paintbrush, computer mouse or even a pen can all give rise to these conditions.
In addition, elbow braces can be used to help treat contusions of the olecranon bursa situated at the bony point of the elbow. Individuals suffering from generally sore or tired forearm muscles can also benefit from the compression and soothing warmth of an elbow brace.
In addition to overuse injuries such as those mentioned above, an elbow support can be an effective treatment for acute injuries such as an elbow strain. By applying warmth and compression, they will help to speed recovery from these injuries.
Finally, some elbow braces can effectively provide warmth and compression to the entire elbow joint. In so doing, they can help to ward off the risk of elbow injuries in an otherwise healthy individual.
This is an especially relevant consideration for “weekend warriors” engaging in occasional sporting activities that place stress on the forearm muscles and elbow tendons. If they do not warm up properly, these individuals are at risk of receiving an acute injury such as an elbow strain. Wearing a brace that keeps the elbow ligaments and other tissues warm from the outset helps to reduce this risk.
We will now consider the different designs of elbow brace or support and the elbow injuries that each design is equipped to treat. Armed with this knowledge, your healthcare professional will be able to select the best brace for his or her patient’s injuries.
Types Of Tennis Elbow Brace
There are 3 types of elbow brace design available in the market today:
Elbow Sleeves with Strap
These extend from a few inches above the elbow to a few inches below it. They are equipped with straps that provide a customizable fit while allowing a full range of motion.
These braces are the most versatile types of elbow brace categories available on the market today. They are useful for treating compound elbow injuries e.g. tennis elbow accompanied by an elbow strain. Another useful feature is that of adjustable compression. This type of brace can be used to apply higher levels of compression when elbow pain is more severe, followed by less compression when the pain eases.
These elbow braces are similar to elbow sleeves with straps except that they do not include straps. This type of design can be used to treat tennis or golf elbow but it can also apply general compression to the elbow joint to treat other conditions like olecranon bursitis or a strained elbow if these are also present. If the patient is also suffering from sore or overstressed forearm muscles in general, this type of brace may again be an optimal choice.
As their name implies, these braces are essentially straps that fit just below the elbow. They are designed to precisely target the medial and lateral elbow tendons that connect the forearm muscles to the elbow (as described above). If the patient is suffering only from tennis and/or golfers elbow, this brace design may be the most cost effective device for treatment of those injuries. However, it does not offer any options for treating other elbow injuries if these are also present.
The more sophisticated elbow braces are made from breathable materials to maximize long term wearing comfort. Some are also treated with antimicrobial agents to eliminate the odor of perspiration and improve patient compliance.
If these designs are within your budget, they will prove to be well worth the necessary investment, especially if you need to wear your brace while performing athletic activities. They will allow you to remain cool and comfortable under the brace and continue wearing it throughout your exertions, which is optimal for pain relief and the successful long term treatment of your injury.
Elbow Brace Care & Maintenance
It is important to be aware of how to wash and care for your elbow brace. For example, many of them are made from special materials that make machine washing or drying inadvisable, as it may damage the fabric of the brace and compromise its performance. Please follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully to get the best value from your investment.
As with all orthopedic braces, correct sizing is extremely important. Some elbow braces have a one size fits all design, but others are sized. For the latter, be careful to closely follow any sizing charts or other guidance that are provided by the manufacturer and presented on this site.
An elbow brace that is too large may not provide the degree of compression you need for pain relief. On the other hand, a brace that is too tight will be uncomfortable to wear and may cause poor patient compliance;
If you need any further guidance on selecting the right elbow support, please contact us. Although we do not provide medical advice, our customer service personnel can provide general guidance on the pros and cons of each alternative design. Before contacting us, we suggest reading our post on elbow brace questions and answers, as you may find answers to your questions there.
If you would like to know more about treating elbow injuries, you can read our post on young athletes and elbow injuries. For further specific information on elbow injuries, please consult with your medical professional.