PT eDigest

ElbowTennis Elbow: To Brace or Not to Brace?

Most people diagnosed with “tennis elbow,” technically called lateral epicondylosis, probably did not develop this problem by playing tennis—although, of course, tennis players are frequent sufferers. The lateral epicondyle is the bony area on the outside of the elbow, and the “–osis” refers to tiny tears in the adjacent tendons that have been caused by repetitive, stressful motions—anything from vacuuming to bowling to professional landscaping.

Your physician may have suggested wearing a brace, but will it help? It could, as part of a multifaceted plan we can design to help you feel better and reduce the likelihood of recurrence. An elastic counter-force brace worn on the forearm can help “spread the load,” the load being any unavoidable pressure or strain on the affected tendons.

This indeed promotes healing, but other strategies can be just as important, as well:

  • Rest. Often easier said than done, especially if the repetitive motion that caused your tennis elbow is necessary to your work, resting the elbow area as much as possible will indeed help alleviate symptoms.
  • Ice. Applying cold compresses several times a day, especially at the onset of symptoms, can reduce swelling and provide pain relief.
  • Oral over-the-counter medications. If your physician’s approves, acetaminophen or a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (such as ibuprofen or naproxen) will alleviate discomfort.
  • Massage. Through small, firm circles made over the inflamed elbow, friction massage basically “scrubs” the fibers of the tendon, stimulates the natural tissue repair mechanism and may reduce the formation of scar tissue.
  • The “Tyler Twist.” To treat tennis elbow, physical therapist Tim Tyler has created a series of simple, specially constructed ribbed bars that are twisted in a two-handed manner. As your pain improves and your elbow strengthens, you move to the bar at the next level of tension, and so on. This low-tech treatment is quite exciting in the world of physical therapy because tennis elbow is such a common problem.

If your elbow is giving you trouble and tennis elbow has been diagnosed, we will be happy to evaluate your painful elbow and create a plan that works best for you.

Download the PTedigest for May 2014