Golfers elbow can be the source of a lot of pain and distress. Using a brace can decrease the pain and improve your ability to live life.
Keep reading to find the best braces for golfer’s elbow as well as information on how these braces work. Most importantly, further below, we will review ways to resolve the actual issue rather than just treating the symptoms.
What is Golfer’s Elbow?
Golfer’s elbow, or medical epicondylitis, is a painful condition caused by inflammation around the inner portion of the elbow. This inner portion is known as the medial epicondyle, and thus, the name of medial epicondylitis (“itis” means inflammation).
Golfer’s elbow often develops in people that perform a lot of gripping, rotating of the arm, or flexing of this wrist, which is how it received its laymen name of golfer’s elbow. Usually when you have this condition, you will have tenderness at the medial epicondyle as well as pain with other motions.
Table of the Best Golfer’s Elbow Braces
This table below contains the best of the braces we’ve reviewed. I’ve based this on quality, price, and other user ratings.
MedicalGeeker Rating 9.8/10
1,991 user ratings
|Tomight Elbow Brace|
MedicalGeeker Rating 9.6/10
3,232 user ratings
|Sleeve Stars Elbow Brace|
MedicalGeeker Rating 9.6/10
1,345 user ratings
|Kunto Fitness Elbow Compression Sleeve|
MedicalGeeker Rating 9.6/10
2,849 user ratings
Why is There Pain With Wrist Motions?
So, let me back up and say not all of what I said above is completely true.
Even though golfer’s elbow is known as medical epicondylitis, the name is a slight misnomer. While inflammation plays a role in the pain, golfer’s elbow is likely also due to chronic changes in the tendon.
The tendons involved in golfers elbow attach onto the medial elbow. They perform actions such as flexing the wrist and fingers.
When these tendons undergo chronic damage on the microscopic scale, it leads to the development of golfer’s elbow.
How Does a Counter Force Brace Help?
A counter force brace, the best brace for golfer’s elbow, typically is worn on the upper forearm. The brace firmly encircles the tendons that are affected before the point of their attachment on the inner elbow. The gripping support that the brace provides helps to distribute the forces away from the inner elbow to roughly the region of the brace. These braces are called counter force braces for this reason.
What Else Can I Do About My Pain?
In Golfer’s elbow, the area of pain is very close to the skin so it responds well to ice and topical medications. You can consider applying ice to it for 10 minutes on and then 10 minutes often (back and forth). You can also consider trialing over the counter topical medications. I personally recommend Salonpas 4% lidocaine cream because the lidocaine actually numbs the area (lidocaine is what is typically used for local anesthesia for procedures). If you want other topicals, you can also consider medications with menthol such as Icy-Hot or Biofreeze. Depending on the severity of the pain, you can also consider anti-inflammatory medications. If you are requiring medications (even over the counter), then I recommend you see your physician for more guidance on medical management. Sometimes even anti-inflammatory gels, steroid injections, or other procedures can be prescribed or considered.
Don’t Only Treat the Pain, Treat the Condition!
I’m a strong proponent of treating the underlying condition rather than just treating the pain.
Most of what we have reviewed so far has to do with pain. However, treating pain is sometimes akin to putting a band aid over a wound. While treating the pain is important, it is just as important to fix the problem.
Since the problem is due to inflammation AND tendon changes, the mainstay for treatment for golfer’s elbow is to try to reverse some of those tendon changes.
Eccentric Wrist Flexion Exercises
You’ll want to do eccentric wrist flexion exercises to reverse some of the pathologic tendon changes. If you do not proactively rehabilitate the issue, it increases the risk of it becoming a chronic issue.
To understand eccentric exercises, you first need to understand the difference between a concentric and eccentric exercise.
A concentric exercise is what you most likely think about as a traditional exercise. For instance, when someone is doing a bicep curl, they are performing a concentric exercise of the bicep muscle. While you are performing the exercise, the muscle shortens. An eccentric exercise is the exact opposite. It is an exercise that lengthens the muscle as you are performing the exercise. In this same example, it is the slow lowering of the weight after you perform the bicep curl that is the eccentric exercise. Eccentric contraction of the bicep while you are doing lowering the weight allows you to slowly bring the weight back to neutral. If you did not have eccentric contraction of your bicep, then there would be no forces to counteract the weight and your whole arm would just flop down onto the surface.
Eccentric exercises are commonly used for tendinopathy (tendino = tendon-related, pathy = disease). The eccentric exercises put more force through the tendons of the muscle which ultimately brings more blood flow to the tendon to reverse some of the tendinopathy. This is based upon research done on achilles tendinopathy, but has been broadly applied to other tendon diseases.
Wrist and finger flexion movements are related to the common tendon that results in golfer’s elbow. Therefore, it is best to perform finger and wrist flexion eccentric exercises. While you are performing these exercises, you want to try to bypass the concentric exercise portion and when you are performing the eccentric exercise, the key is to perform it slowly. It is this slow movement that exerts more eccentric forces on the tendon.
While you are performing these exercises, a mild degree of pain is to be expected. In fact, if you have no pain, then you lightly need to progress to more resistance. The pain, however, should not be severe or linger for a long time after the exercises.
Perform Under Guidance of a Physical Therapist
As you can see, eccentric exercises are not easy to teach. I recommend that you see a physical therapist to help guide you with these exercises. You can always mention eccentric exercises to see if they can teach you them if they think it is appropriate.
Another effective way to perform eccentric exercises that is easier to perform is to use a Theraband Flexbar. I highly recommend Theraband because it provides a good amount of resistance and is relatively easy to learn how to use. Depending on your strength, you may need a Flexbar with more resistance (such as the green Flexbar). I always suggest you start with the red Flexbar and work your way up from there.
The Youtube video below (not my personal video) demonstrates how to use Theraband for eccentric exercise for golfer’s elbow.
I hope that with this guide and information, you can seek the appropriate care to resolve your golfer’s elbow!
Alfredson H, Cook J. A treatment algorithm for managing Achilles tendinopathy: new treatment options. Br J Sports Med. 2007;41(4):211-6.