Proper tennis elbow strap placement is critical for decreasing pain and improving joint function. Tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylitis, is a common overuse injury that causes pain in the outer elbow. A strap or brace along with other conservative treatments have proven very effective.
The tennis elbow strap should sit about one inch below your elbow. Place the pressure pad directly over the sore spot and tighten until it feels snug yet comfortable.
Overview of Tennis Elbow
Tennis elbow is a common injury that tends to affect those who play tennis or other racquet sports. But you don't have to play tennis to experience this problem
You can actually have tennis elbow without ever picking up a racket. The lateral elbow pain may result from other repetitive activities, including golfing, painting, using a screwdriver or even pulling weeds. Many people whose job requires repetitive motions, such as dentists or carpenters, may also develop this injury.
Tennis elbow, which is also called lateral epicondylitis, is an overuse injury that results in tendonitis or inflammation of the tendons from the forearm muscles on the outside of the elbow, says the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. One of the muscles that extend your wrist and fingers, the extensor carpi radialis brevis (ECRB), attaches on the lateral epicondyle and is the main culprit in tennis elbow.
The first symptom of tennis elbow is pain and tenderness on the outside of the elbow. Without proper treatment or rest, it can result in weakness and constant pain.
Treatment often consists of rest, physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medications and bracing. Knowing the proper tennis elbow brace placement is crucial for healing from this condition.
Read more: 6 Rockin' Exercises for Totally Toned Arms
Do Tennis Elbow Braces Work?
A tennis elbow strap is often recommended as part of your treatment, and it appears to be quite effective. A small study published in the July 2016 edition of _Trauma Monthly _looked at two different types of counterforce tennis elbow straps, including the standard strap and one that had separated or wedged pads.
Researchers have found that both braces were effective in reducing pain and increasing grip strength in those who had tennis elbow, but the wedged brace was the most effective.
Another small study backs up this one, saying that tennis elbow braces are effective in the long term. The February 2019 study in Journal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery found that these counterforce braces may reduce pain in the short term and improve overall function in the long term (26 weeks).
Tennis elbow brace placement is important to ensure the brace works as it should. Trauma Monthly says the brace works because it applies compression over the forearm muscle. As the muscle contracts, the stress becomes dispersed throughout the muscle (instead of just one localized spot), which may help reduce pain and allows for a more forceful contraction.
Read more: Foods to Avoid for Tendonitis and Bursitis
Tennis Elbow Brace Placement Tips
For proper tennis elbow strap placement, the band should wrap around the forearm near your elbow, but not go above your elbow.
Proper sizing is important to ensure your elbow strap fits correctly. Many are adjustable and can fit a variety of arm sizes. Ideally, check the manufacturer's sizing guide or talk to your physical therapist. If a measurement is required, measure one inch below your elbow on the injured arm to get your forearm circumference.
Follow these steps from North Coast Medical to ensure proper tennis elbow strap placement:
- Slide the strap up your forearm and place it about one inch below your elbow.
- Gently palpate or press until you find the tender spot on your forearm on the outside of your elbow. Don't go lower than one inch below your elbow.
- Place the pressure pad directly on that painful spot.
- Tighten the strap until it fits snug yet comfortable. It should not cut off circulation to your hand or be so tight that it is painful.
According to Kaiser Permanente, conservative treatment of tennis elbow is effective in most cases, but it may take six to 12 weeks to work, so be patient. Wear your brace when doing repetitive gripping activities, like painting, golfing or playing tennis. If conservative treatment doesn't work, surgery or corticosteroid injections may be needed.
Is This an Emergency?
- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: "Tennis Elbow (Lateral Epicondylitis)"
- Journal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery: "Counterforce Bracing of Lateral Epicondylitis: A Prospective, Randomized, Double-Blinded, Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial"
- North Coast Medical: "Tennis Elbow Strap"
- Kaiser Permanente: "Epicondylitis (Tennis Elbow or Golfer’s Elbow)"
- Trauma Monthly: "A Newly Designed Tennis Elbow Orthosis With a Traditional Tennis Elbow Strap in Patients With Lateral Epicondylitis"