Answer by Allen Willette:
The question of "What's the best type of brace?" assumes a brace makes sense for treating Tennis Elbow the first place – But does it? I wouldn't necessarily take that as a given. I think that depends what your goal is…
- If your goal is to continue playing tennis, golf (or some other dynamic sport or activity) and you want to "protect" your injury while doing so, then it may make sense to wear one.
In that case, while you're playing, (and only while playing) I think the CounterForce brace is the way to go.
- Or if you're trying to maximize your pain relief in the short term and are not concerned with whether it helps your healing or slows it down –
(Braces are known to offer pain relief in the short term – but that doesn't mean they have any benefit to healing in the long term. See below.)
In that case, I would go with a Neoprene sleeve that keeps the area warm but constricts and restricts the area as little as possible.
- But if your top priority is to maximize your healing long term, then the best brace or support is probably no brace at all, in my opinion.
(I would avoid the kind of rigid elbow brace seen in the image above at all costs – unless your injury is more severe than simply Tennis Elbow.)
Some people have told me that the Neoprene sleeve keeps the area warm, (which is helpful to healing, in theory) but I'm not sure if it's worth the trade-off if it becomes a source of constriction in the area, (which slows healing.)
Here's a Quora post I made on this very topic a while ago:
The short version is that it has a lot to do with the nature of the Tennis Elbow injury, which is most often 'TendinOSIS' – suggesting chronic degeneration – And not actually TendinITIS.
- It's usually not an 'Acute' injury (sprain, strain, fracture)
- (Yes, acute injuries often do initially benefit from immobilization),
- But chronic, degenerative injuries have little to nothing in common with an injury of an acute nature, like a sprain.
So, do you treat a gradual tendon breakdown (degenerative injury) – By:
- Immobilizing it completely?
- Limiting its mobility somewhat?
- Or even constricting the area a little bit with some kind of "wrap?"
I think you do the opposite. The essence of the problem is that it's stagnating and not healing.
I think the answer is not to immobilize it – but to mobilize it. (Within reason.) To increase circulation and stimulate metabolic activity in the area…
And here's my full-length post on this key question of braces in the treatment of Tennis Elbow: