Are tennis elbow straps effective?

Are tennis elbow straps effective?

Tennis elbow is a common overuse injury that not only affects tennis players, but also anyone who performs repetitive movements with their arms, such as fitness enthusiasts, gardeners, plumbers, painters, musicians, crafters and more. These movements can cause tiny tears in the forearm tendon where it attaches to the elbow, which leads to pain, a weakened grip, a dull ache and stiffness.

 

Tennis elbow sufferers tend to treat the condition on their own at first, opting for rest, ice, over-the-counter NSAIDs like ibuprofen and braces, straps or sleeves. While these external supports are common, on their own, they typically cannot heal this nagging injury. But they must have some merit to be so widely used.

 

Let’s consider the obvious question: are tennis elbow straps effective?

How a tennis elbow strap works

Note that straps are only one type of external support available; braces and sleeves are additional, larger options. Each is designed to deliver external support to the elbow joint by limiting movement and thereby reducing irritation of the tendon. Furthermore, straps, braces and sleeves add compression to the area to absorb external forces, which also helps minimize strain.

 

Tennis elbow straps and tennis elbow braces that incorporate straps change the angle at which the forearm works, which alters the forces that are applied where the tendon attaches to the elbow, and thereby helps alleviate pain.

 

Tennis elbow straps are worn around the forearm just below the elbow. Some include pressure pads that should be positioned on the muscle just beneath the point of pain on the elbow. Because straps are small and lightweight, they allow more freedom of movement than some braces and sleeves, and are less likely to interfere with activity.

 

External supports like straps and braces should not be worn all the time, and not when the arm is at rest (such as during sleep). They should be used to help control pain during and just after activity.

Effective tennis elbow treatment

The elbow must not be constantly immobilized, or adhesions and scar tissue can form, which can further restrict movement. Plus, without movement, the tendon is subject to additional weakening or degeneration.

 

To recover from tennis elbow, the injured tendon needs increased blood and oxygen flow, which helps stimulate the formation of new collagen.

 

So, on their own, straps and braces can provide short-term relief and serve as an effective supplement to a more comprehensive treatment plan.

 

An ideal way to promote healing of the injured tendon is physical therapy that includes massage of the tendon and stretching and strengthening exercises. Even better, the new Fiix Elbow Program from Stā Active incorporates a clinically proven physical therapy technique called instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization (IASTM).

 

Worn on the forearm, the device delivers deep, linear massage strokes to the tendon to break up scar tissue, increase circulation and encourage cellular regeneration to repair the tissue. Self-treatment can be done at home (or anywhere) for 10 minutes per day, three days per week, for eight weeks. In a patient trial, 96 percent of participants experienced reduced pain, with an 85 percent increase in grip strength and a 76 percent improvement in functional activities.

 


Nate Stier MPT, LAT

Owner of Orthopedic & Sports Rehab Physical Therapy Clinics. Former Director of Rehabilitation for the Minnesota Vikings and Graduate of the Mayo School of Health and Sciences.

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