Tennis elbow or lateral epicondylitis is a common condition that causes pain in the outer part of the elbow. One of the common treatment adjuncts for tennis elbow are braces that are worn on the painful area to support the weak forearm muscles. There is a huge variety of braces out there in the market but basically they all work by applying pressure to the forearm muscles and in turn supporting the area. This is very helpful in the acute phase with the forearm weakness and pain. However we need to know how to use the brace in the most efficient manner to get the maximum benefit out of it.
Here are ten tips to get the most effective use out of your brace:
#1. Tennis elbow brace should always be worn on the forearm extensor muscles just below the lateral epicondyle (bony area of the outer elbow) and not on the elbow itself (unless you use a sleeve type of brace that can go over the elbow).
#2. You should wear the brace for all daily activities except when you are in the shower and doing your physiotherapy based exercises. Some people like to sleep without the brace once the acute painful phase is over as they are not actively using the arm while sleeping. But this is an individual preference.
#3. You can sleep with the brace on if you have an acute case of tennis elbow where you need to support your forearm and elbow 24/7
#4. Tennis elbow braces come in different sizes. Choose one that is fit enough to support you well but not tight enough to block off the circulation. Straps can loose a bit of their elasticity when worn for a period of time and depending on how frequently you wash them, if you live in a humid area or do activities with lots of sweating.
#5.Do not sleep on the affected side, keeping it rested in a neutral position besides you. This can be done by keeping your forearm on a pillow next to you.
#6.Use a cold pack before you go to bed to ease off the inflammation in and around your outer elbow and forearm muscles.
#7. You can wear a tennis elbow brace while working out, if you have a history of tennis elbow in the past or are currently suffering from one.
#8.Wearing a brace can also helps if you are lifting heavy weights in the gym for prevention of this condition.
#9.Most braces come with straps that are quite helpful for additional support on the area. They are also helpful if you have a swelling or muscle spasm when you purchase the brace. Once they gradually subside and your forearm come back to their original girth the straps are helpful in maintaining the snug fit of the brace.
#10.Elbow braces tend to be lightweight. However, some can be heavier than others. Wear the brace before you buy it to ensure that your forearm can take this weight and you know what to expect.
Tennis elbow braces are highly effective in relieving pain and discomfort when worn well keeping all these tips in mind. However, as the pain reduces you should try and wean off the brace gradually. This helps your muscles take over the function of supporting your forearm in daily activities. It is easier to wean off once you have started doing strengthening exercises as a part of your rehab process. If you are dependent on the brace in the long term, the muscles tend to stay weak and there are chances of the tennis elbow getting chronic.
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