Should you use tennis elbow braces or not? If you are suffering from a tennis elbow, chances are high that you will consider buying a brace in order to relieve your pain. In this article I will explain to you how braces work, how they affect your muscles, what they can do for you and what they can't.
Still, one thing is to say ahead: While transient relief is possible, don't expect cure.
A real tennis elbow displays an inflammation of the ligaments of some of your forearm extensor muscles. Other, synonymously used terms are lateral epicondylitis or epicondylitis lateralis.
An inflammation of these ligaments can occur if you overuse/overload these muscles. Why? If you overload a muscle, it increases its tone and this extra tension gets transferred onto the muscles' tendon. If you don't lower this excessive tension actively, the constant pull leads to an inflamed tendon, which in turn will give you pain.
The idea behind tennis elbow braces is, that they lower the muscles' pull on the tendon by wrapping around the forearm short before the tendon. This way they lower the mechanical forces on the inflamed structures and thus the pain.
While tennis elbow braces relieve some of the pull on the muscles' tendons, they do NOT lower the excessive muscle tension, which was created by your overuse. And remember, the elevated tone is what caused the tendon to get inflamed in the first place, correct? So how should the brace eliminate it?
It's simple. It just won't do it, and until the tension doesn't get lowered and eventually eliminated, you will feel pain. It's easy as that.
Your muscle tension gets regulated by your nervous system. Knowing this, it becomes obvious that you have to involve your nervous system in your treatment and to work on and with it, respectively.
There are a couple of ways to “communicate” with you nervous system. The easiest way to do so is via self-massage. By pressurizing a muscle transiently, you tell your nervous system that there is excessive tension present which has to be lowered, if not eliminated. Your nervous system is constantly readjusting your muscle tone through internal and external stimuli, trying to find an optimal state for each given situation.
The internal information it gets, tells it that there is an inflamed and overused structure. Mostly there are two ways how it responds to that. Simply spoken, it either activates a muscle permanently, and hence increasing its tone, or it “deactivates” it. In the first case, you might experience exquisite tenderness at your lateral epicondyle – where some tendons of the forearm muscles attach –. With the latter scenario, you get punished with a weak grip because your nervous system doesn't want you to place even more tension on your forearm by using it.
With massage you feed your nervous system with external stimuli that will result in a normalized muscle tone in the long run and thus in a pain-free state. If all that sounds new and somehow obscure to you, just give it a try and then judge for yourself. There is nothing mysterious to it. It just displays smart use of your bodies functions and reflexes. More on that in my article on muscle relaxation techniques.
Tennis elbow braces cannot do that. Of course, they apply some pressure on your muscles, but not in such a precise way as needed and as it can be done with massage.
If your braces soothe your pain a bit, feel free to use them. But don't rely on them. They don't tackle the cause of the problem, but are a great way to make money. And if they help you to get better through your day, it's just fair enough.
And now? Use the free tennis elbow treatment that you find here on Painotopia. It covers self-massage of all the important key muscles that are involved in tennis elbow pain.
Tennis Elbow Braces