According To A Physical Therapist, Here's What You Should Look For In Tennis Elbow Brace

Elbow injury in tennis, unpleasant facial expression, arm injury
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Contrary to popular belief, tennis elbow is not something that only affects tennis players. If you participate in activities where you repeatedly move your arm in the same way over and over — like golfing, chopping, or even typing — it can take a toll on the tendons in your elbow. Wearing one of the best tennis elbow braces can help relieve pain by restricting the movement of tendons, allowing them to properly heal.

To get more information, I emailed New York-based, board-certified clinical specialist in orthopedic physical therapy, Dr. Karena Wu of ActiveCare Physical Therapy. Tennis elbow, which is also called lateral epicondylitis, is a "condition where the tendons on the outside of the elbow get irritated and inflamed, causing pain," Dr. Wu explains. "It is an overuse, repetitive stress injury of the wrist extensor tendon."

In order to choose the proper at-home device for tennis elbow, Dr. Wu shares these tips:

What characteristics to look for in a brace: "Braces should be rigid and snug, but not constricting. It should restrict the muscle contraction, which takes the pressure off the tendon, limits the wrist movements, and reduces the pain."

How to know if it fits correctly: "The brace should fit approximately two-finger width, one inch below the outside bone of the elbow on the pinky side. The plastic hard piece or air pillow goes over the muscle just below the two-finger distance. The brace should be snug but not constricting and should not slip."

Anything to watch out for? "There should be no discoloration — turning blue or getting puffy — on your hands, [thereby] cutting off your blood supply! Or, any paresthesias, meaning numbness, tingling, burning, pins and needles, or compressing the nerves into the hands. And no sustained and uncomfortable pressure on the bones."

With these tips in mind, below, you'll find a list of the best tennis elbow braces that will help relieve your pain and make you more comfortable. I've also included additional options for a sleeve and a splint, which can also help ease discomfort.


The Best Overall Tennis Elbow Brace

This neoprene brace by Simien has a gel-like pad that helps apply pressure where you need it and a hook-and-loop strap to allow you to adjust it to your personal preference. As Dr. Wu advises, this customization is key because it helps make sure the brace isn't too tight. It comes with two interchangeable braces, so you have the convenience of keeping one at the gym and the other at home, or even wear one on each arm if needed. It's also machine washable and several reviewers noted that it holds up well after washing, which is a nice perk since there's a good possibility you'll be performing sweaty workouts while wearing it. It's also worth noting that it comes with a lifetime guarantee, so you know it's built to last.

Fan review: “I was plagued with tendinitis (tennis elbow) for about 6 weeks after overdoing it at the gym with an arm workout and it just wouldn't get better this time. After using this elbow brace for a couple of weeks, wearing it 24 hours a day, except when I showered, it is finally getting better and I have even been able to bowl on my league again and am beginning light workouts at the gym. I definitely recommend this product.”

  • Available sizes: one size


The Best Elbow Brace Value Pack

The braces in this budget-friendly two-pack come with a compression pad to help restrict movement in your elbow. The double Velcro straps helps keep it snug and secure, but not too tight. Fans have mentioned that it's comfortable and works well for the inexpensive price. It's even machine washable, so keeping it clean after a workout is a breeze.

The trade-off in choosing this pick over another pricier option from a name brand like Simien above means you won't get the lifetime quality guarantee. However, if you're think you'll only need to rely on a brace for a shorter term, this one will serve you well.

Fan review: “I purchased these because I suffer from tennis elbow from playing paddle ball. I find these to be very well cushioned and comfortable. The straps are easily adjustable and the Velcro is durable. I’ve been able to comfortably wear them under a shirt as well as over a fitted shirt.”

  • Available sizes: one size


The Best Compression Sleeve For Elbow Pain

Unlike a brace, this compression sleeve fits over your entire elbow, which will help increase blood flow and reduce swelling. According to Dr. Wu, though, compression sleeves should ideally be used after your arm has had adequate time to heal. So depending on how severe your tennis elbow is, you may want to go with a brace first. The lightweight, elastic design doesn't restrict movement as much as a brace does so you can still wear it during faster-paced activities where you still want some bendability. Plus, the fabric has an anti-slip grip built it which will keep it from bunching or moving around too much.

Some size options are available with what the manufacturer calls "Infused Tech," which is a cooling agent that's meant to help relieve pain even more. One thing to keep in mind is that, with or without the cooling gel, this sleeve is not machine washable — reviewers noted, however, that it can be easily cleaned by hand in cold water and then air-dried.

Fan review: “Game Changer! This is great quality and I know I am not crazy since so many others have reviewed it too. Highly recommend to those needing a compression sleeve - specifically if hurting from tennis elbow!”

  • Available sizes: Small — XXL
  • Available sizes with Infused Tech: Extra Large, Large, and XXL


A Padded Splint To Stabilize Your Elbow At Night

Several Amazon users reported that this elbow splint is a great option for pain relief overnight. It's constructed with two metal pieces that are wrapped in a thick, breathable foam in order to keep your elbow in place comfortably. Double Velcro straps also ensure it doesn't slip off while you sleep. It's also interchangeable, so it can be worn just as easily on either arm. There are two sizes to choose from, however, some reviewers have pointed out that if it feels uncomfortable at first, you probably ordered the right size, you just need to give it a couple of nights for your body to adjust.

Fan review: "This works so well keeping my arm straight at night that I bought a second one to keep both elbows straight while sleeping. It’s been the best recovery for my over worked elbow nerves."

  • Available sizes: Small/Medium and Large

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Dr. Karena Wu, ActiveCare Physical Therapy