Tennis elbow can cause a lot of pain and difficulty carrying out activities of daily life. A brace can help decrease this pain. These braces are typically called counterforce braces.
I encourage you to consider one of these braces, but more importantly, keep reading to learn how to fix the problem before it causes chronic pain.
What is Tennis Elbow?
Tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylitis, is a painful condition caused by inflammation around the outer portion of your elbow. This outer portion of your elbow is also known as the lateral epicondyle. Lateral epicondylitis = epicondyle = outer portion of the elbow + -“itis” = inflammation.
Typically with people with tennis elbow will have exquisite tenderness at the lateral epicondyle as well as pain with other motions.
Comparison Table: Best Tennis Elbow Braces
Take a look at this easy-to-read table for a list of the top counter force braces on the market. 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?
Great question! So, let me back up and say not all of what I said above is completely true.
Many muscles of the wrist and hands have tendons that join to form a big tendon in the upper forearm. This tendon inserts onto the outer elbow.
When these tendons go through unhealthy changes at the microscopic scale, it leads to the development of tennis elbow. The pain is likely due to BOTH the inflammation as well as the tendon changes. As such, if you fix the inflammation without fixing the tendon, the pain may continue to linger.
How Does a Counter force Brace Help?
A counterforce brace goes over the upper portion of your forearm. The brace itself firmly encircles the tendons that are affected. This firm support changes the distribution of the forces of the muscles related to those tendons.
Usually actions such as finger and wrist extension will cause the force of the tendon to pull against the outer elbow. By using this brace, the forces are brought closer to where the brace encircles. This helps to decrease pain, and sometimes, quite significantly.
This is why the brace is often referred to as a counter force brace.
What Else Can I Do About My Pain?
The area of pain is very close the surface of the skin, so it responds well to ice and topical medications. If there is still pain, consider applying ice in a 10 minutes on to 10 minutes off fashion. 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.
While controlling the pain is important, it is also important to treat the underlying disease. As I said earlier, tennis elbow is a result of inflammation and tendon changes. To make a long term impact on your symptoms and not just mask the pain, you will need to reverse those tendon changes.
Let’s discuss how you can go about doing that.
Eccentric Wrist Extension Exercises
You’ll want to do eccentric wrist extension exercises to help reverse some of the tendon changes. If you do not take care of the issue, it can ultimately result in chronic pain.
When you imagine someone doing a typical bicep curl at the gym, they are performing a concentric exercise. In this type of exercise, your muscle shortens as you perform the activity. An eccentric exercise is the exact opposite. It is when your muscle lengthens as you are performing an activity. In this same example, when you are slowly bringing down the weight from a bicep curl, the forces on the bicep are causing it to perform an eccentric activity.
Eccentric exercises are commonly used for tendinopathy (tendino = tendon-related, pathy = disease). The thought is that by doing eccentric exercises, it puts more forces upon the tendons which ultimately bring more blood flow to the area to help reverse some of the tendinopathy.
As I said earlier, finger and wrist extensors help to form the common tendon that results in tennis elbow. Therefore, to perform eccentric exercises, you will bring your wrist from an extended position slowlyinto a flexed position. The most important part is that you perform this slowly so that the eccentric motion is causing strain on the tendon.
While you are performing these exercises, a mild degree of pain is 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
The topic of eccentric exercise is not an easy one to grasp or teach. I recommend that you see a physical therapist to help guide you through these eccentric exercises. You can bring up the suggestion of performing eccentric exercises to see if they think it is appropriate.
To perform eccentric exercises you can also use Theraband Flexbar. I highly recommend Theraband because it helps to provide an appropriate amount of resistance and is relatively easy to use. I always recommend starting with the red Flexbar, which is the lightest resistance, and moving up from there.
The video below demonstrates (not a video I created, simply one I found on Youtube) how to use the flexbar for eccentric exercises for tennis elbow. Note that in the video, he talks about “strengthening your muscles” – while this is true to a certain extent, I really like to think about it as restructuring your tendons. It may just be semantics, but I like to make that differentiation.
I hope that with this guide and information, you can seek the appropriate care to resolve your tennis elbow!
Alfredson H, Cook J. A treatment algorithm for managing Achilles tendinopathy: new treatment options. Br J Sports Med. 2007;41(4):211-6.