Should You Wear a Tennis Elbow Support?

Should You Wear a Tennis Elbow Support? Barefoot Rehabilitation Clinic

10 Oct Should You Wear a Tennis Elbow Support?

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All of your friends are wearing a tennis elbow support and you’re wondering:

Should I wear a tennis elbow support too?

Peer pressure is a powerful thing.

You worry about the kids your son or daughter hang out with because you know, what their friends are doing, your son or daughter will be following along.

The saying applies here for you too:

If you friend jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?

Sometimes, following your friends and jumping off the bridge is a good thing.

Friends that exercise means you’ll prioritize exercise.

When it comes to the tennis elbow support clan, let your friends jump off without you.

You stay right where you are. I’ll show you where the kids who get out of annoying, frustrating pain hang out.

This is Unconventional Advice for Tennis Elbow

If you wear (or are considering wearing) a tennis elbow support, you have elbow pain.

Side Note: I’m all for compression sleeves of the elbow. I’m not for sleeves that apply pressure in a small surface area of a body part like tennis elbow supports.

You’ve probably tried ice, heat, and maybe even massage.

When the pain didn’t go away, you became frustrated because you wanted to keep playing tennis. Your friends were wearing braces and they said to you:

The brace helps enormously. Wear one so we can get our game on!

So you did.

Unfortunately, your friend is not a doctor. Which means, you’ve never had your elbow looked at in order to be diagnosed.

Pain guarantees that there’s a problem.

Sure, you could take pain medications, rub stuff, get adjusted, and avoid what hurts.  None of this is addressing the root of the problem.

The #1 thing the tennis elbow support is doing is:

Addressing only the tip of the iceberg, allowing you to avoid the massive foundation of the iceberg underneath the surface.


There is research and reputable physical therapists recommending use of tennis elbow supports.

The study linked above said grip strength increases with less pain when tennis elbow supports are used. I agree.

What I disagree with is how to get rid of the pain.

  • You could use a support to decrease pain, like putting a “band-aid” on the issue. OR …
  • You could address the problem to decrease the pain.

Using a tennis elbow support is ignorance. Wearing the brace won’t get rid of the problems that caused the tennis elbow. In fact, it will help to grow the problem.

Only in viewing every piece of the problem can we put the pain puzzle together again to remove the pain permanently.

What is a Tennis Elbow Support Actually Doing?

Tennis elbow is either a tendonitis or a tendinosis.  I won’t define those two terms here.

Regardless of which problem is, your tendon isn’t happy.

It’s been taking excessive stress for sometime now, likely because your forearms are glued down with adhesion. And it’s letting you know by crying out.

Adhesion looks like this:what-is-adhesion

So, you take an elbow strap and artificially create a “new” tendon by pinning down the muscles 1” away from your tendon.

Lo and behold, No pain!

Little did you know, you’ve just started the process of creating the exact same problem (adhesion) right under where your strap is located.

Theoretically, when the pain ramps up again, you’ll just keep moving the strap to healthy tissue, making it sick there, until you have no forearm to move the strap.

Finally your tendon gets to Nirschl Stage 7 of tendinosis, you can’t sleep without pain, and you need surgery.

That’s the worst case scenario of using a support.

There is A Better Way for Tennis Elbow

Sure, you could try massage. You could take a lacrosse ball and jam it into your forearm. There’s also ice, heat, and electronic stim. You could keep doing the same stuff you’re doing.

Or …

You could understand the problem and do something about that.

This makes sense to people. What stops you is most often is the practicality of following through.

So, to help you be more practical and address the root of the problem, I’ll elaborate a little more. You’re going to be crystal clear about how to get out of pain, once and for all.

Tennis elbow starts as overuse (too much tennis) that creates glue (known as adhesion) in the forearm muscles way before you ever experience pain. As that glue snowballs and gets thicker, your forearms get tighter and tighter until the tendon can’t take the stresses anymore and you feel pain.

Observing your problem through a realistic, true lens, hopefully allows you to feel empowered to now address what’s really going on with your body.

Comprehensive Treatment for Tennis Elbow, when a true tendinitis is present, includes:

  1. Manual Adhesion Release (MAR)/Instrument Adhesion Release (IAR) to remove the adhesion from the forearm. Find a provider here.
  2. Time/anti-inflammation techniques to let the inflammation in the tendon go away. Eat your vegetables, proteins, and healthy fats. Sleep at least 8 hours a night. Be patient, like you’re cultivate a seed into a flower into a fruit. This takes time.
  3. Do Cross-training such as yoga or moderate intensity functional strength movements to strengthen all of the areas of the body, focusing on the upper body.
  4. Load management to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Load = the work you do. Monitoring when your symptoms start (i.e. 60 minutes into tennis) means that you should keep your work load under that threshold until you have greater capacity (i.e. abillity) to play more.

Another way to think of load management is like this.

Load is the blue water. The black bucket is your capacity. You get symptoms (spilling out of your bucket) when you do too much.  Continue playing tennis only when you’re pain-free.


Comprehensive Treatment for Tennis Elbow, when a tendinosis is present, is slightly different:

Same as above with the addition of

  • Eccentric Exercises to strengthen the degenerated tendon. 2×15 reps.

With the subtraction of:

  • Anti-inflammation techniques because there is no inflammation. Time is required due to the dosage of treatment to remove adhesion and exercise the tendon.

Notice with both treatment plans above, there is no puzzle piece that includes wearing the support. Doing so would be encouraging the problem to grow.

Don’t wear one.

If you live in North Jersey and you’re sick and tired of dealing with your elbow pain, give us a call at 862-205-4847 and ask to schedule a FREE 15-minute consultation with me to see if we can help you get rid of this pain once and for all. 

If your pain is really sharp and more than 8/10 on the pain scale or if you’re unable to stop using your arm, these are all reasons why we’ll refer you to other people, such as the orthopedic doctor, the imaging center, or some other healthcare provider. 

speechbubblesHow has your tennis elbow progressed? What’s helping or not helping? Share your thoughts or comments below.

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Dr. Chris Stepien, DC, Full-Body ID Certified, ART Certified, CSCS, and CrossFit Level 1 Certified, fixes your annoying and frustrating pains, even when it's been over 6 months and you've seen 3-5 other doctors or therapists without lasting relief Barefoot Rehab in Denville, NJ. And when you're sad, depressed, or not enjoying life, Dr. Chris wants to hug you. He invites you to reach out, no matter what your concern is. Barefoot Rehab is here to serve you.
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  • Bob Conger
    Posted at 02:23h, 31 March Reply

    I’m in the process of getting approval of workers comp for carpal tunnel and cubital tunnel. It’s been a long road, now entering its fifth month. We actually had the go ahead but it had been so long that the doctor wanted to see me again for scheduling. Upon examination, he determined I also have tennis elbow, in both elbows. He wanted to treat that as well but had to resubmit to the WC insurance company. We’re again waiting, now 2 months. In the meantime, I’m still working and the pain is getting almost unbearable in my right arm. The elbow is very sensitive and the pain gravitates to my forearm and even to a smaller degree up my arm. The ortho doc isn’t in a big hurry to do anything without approval from the insurance. It’s gotten so I can’t pick up my coffee cup in the morning without using both hands, and even then carefully as it hurts both arms, the right the most. Is there a brace or something you would recommend I could try until I get approval for surgery?

    • Dr. Chris
      Posted at 12:37h, 03 April Reply

      We need to be realistic with what your body is telling us. You’re in bad shape. Your body is trying to use different muscles and theyre all giving up. Wearing a brace would only cause you to compensate even more. Why is this bad? Because you’re going to tear or crush a joint or cartilage in a permanent way. When that happens there’s no going back.

      Does that make sense to you?

      I recommend doing whatever you have to do to rest until you can address these pathologies.

      Hope this is helpful.

      • Kevin Kelly
        Posted at 15:45h, 11 December Reply

        Dr. Chris, I have tendinosis in my right arm and just started wearing a brace. Should I wear when I sleep or is it best to remove at night time ?

        • Dr. Chris
          Posted at 20:39h, 11 December Reply

          Hi Kevin, I’d only wear it when you MUST use your arm. There’s no reason to wear it at night time. Please remember that the brace is only a band-aid. Tendinosis will inevitably lead to a tear if you don’t fix it. HOpe this is helpful.

  • Dave Smith
    Posted at 16:00h, 13 February Reply

    My name is Dave and I am a self employed sports masseuse. I have been practicing for 25 years and I have medial epicondilitis to my right elbow. I have rested it for a couple of weeks but as soon as I start back to work it flares up. But it sometimes appears on the lateral epicondle then goes to the left arm.
    It always ends up back on the right medial side. I have followed a rehab with exercise and stretches but to no avail. I can’t afford any more time off.
    Have you any ideas on how I can progress from this point.

    • Dr. Chris
      Posted at 23:42h, 13 February Reply

      Hi Dave, I’m sorry for the pain. If were just epicondylitis, then it would have gotten better with rest. So, there’s something else going on. The question becomes what. Does it get better with a little activity? If it does, you have tendonosis. If you contract your muscle, does it make the pain sharp? You may have a tear. Have you had anyone check it for adhesion? You definitely have this. I’m afraid you need to seek out either imaging or an adhesion specialist. Let me know your thoughts.

  • Teddy Winchester
    Posted at 19:40h, 23 February Reply

    You lose credibility by saying anyone thing is ignorant. There is no one answer for every question. This is without even talking about your topic. Maybe some Dale Carnegie courses might help because it absolutely dose not make you seem like you know what you are talking about. Those who discount other ideas the loudest are not confident and two of the most families were Hitler and Stalin, they had only one opinion and anybody who didn’t agree were called idiots and persecuted as well.

    • Dr. Chris
      Posted at 20:52h, 23 February Reply

      That’s a fair point Teddy. I’m speaking to the “majority” of people who wear tennis elbow supports. Without a complete diagnosis, no effective treatment can be prescribed. Thanks for the comment.

  • Tim Winkelman
    Posted at 15:27h, 31 July Reply

    Dr. Chris,
    I am a 53 year old drummer. I have tennis/drummers’ elbow in my right arm (the really busy one). I can rest it and rehab it after the show Saturday but is there anything other than a brace to help get me through a 3 hour set?

    • Dr. Chris
      Posted at 23:24h, 31 July Reply

      Hi Tim, Oh man, that’s a tough spot. I would NOT do a cortisone shot, since research proves this makes things worse. I’d probably try some CBD lotion or some oral pain-relievers. If you really had to, you can go see the MD and get some steroids, although that stuff isn’t the most benign.

  • Mark Whitlow
    Posted at 14:01h, 06 May Reply

    I have had pain in my arm, just above the elbow to down into the forearm for a few months now. It has gotten to the point that I cannot use my arm to do anything, lift a cup, dial a number… I have to sue my other arm. I recently seen a doctor and had X-rays, the doctor could not see a problem. I was given one of these braces by the doctor and scheduled an appointment for 5 weeks later. The brace helps drastically, I can use my arm to do almost anything now, but I have not been back to the doctor yet. Should I not be using the brace?

    • Dr. Chris
      Posted at 10:08h, 07 May Reply

      First, x-rays are pointless for soft tissue problems. If you really want to see if the tendon is damaged, get an MRI. Second, all a brace does is help someone rest it. It does nothing to address the actual pathology. I’d keep wearing the brace, IN ADDITION to finding someone to diagnose and fix your problem. Preferably someone who is really good at soft tissue work. That is the only way to make this go away, permanently, and not become a nuisance for you. So, wear the brace now, but the goal is to get rid of the brace later.

  • Laura lee Johnson
    Posted at 04:19h, 25 January Reply

    I guess u would call mine insert elbow…moving heavy food inserts o e handed from heated warmer to heated table and back and repeated 1000 times a night (Popeyes) just grabbed a sleeve off amazon feels better after just putting on… But as u mentioned feels like a band aid as soon as I took it off omg the pain…

    • Dr. Chris
      Posted at 22:11h, 27 January Reply

      Hi Laura – If I were you given your job, I’d wear the sleeve too. It’s the best you can do given your circumstances. When you have 2-3 days of rest, I’d spend some time strengtheing. 2 sets of 10 bicep curls every day off can help this issue become smaller assuming weakness is an issue. : )

  • Jennette
    Posted at 14:12h, 12 July Reply

    Hi. I’m suffering from tennis elbow pain. I got it by playing badminton. My friends tell me to rest my arm a couple of weeks but i don’t want to stop playing badminton. It’s my only exercise. I took pain relievers for 2 wks but i stopped. Now i just put ice after i play. But it really hurts Pls adv

  • Maureen Saunders
    Posted at 16:25h, 07 February Reply you know anyone in the Southern Mass area that you could recommend for tennis and golfers elbow? My pt recommended a brace and simple stretches which is not doing anything.

  • Jason
    Posted at 21:33h, 17 December Reply

    I’m having TE from tennis. It’s true that while elbow brace will release the pain, it’s cause my forearm muscle to hurt at some point I have to stop playing tennis altogether with or without the brace. I figured out i need to address the problems: my technique (contact in front with relax grip) as well as sport equipments (lower RA racket + multi-filaments string). It’s also true that rest and ice will not improve the condition. Upon many research on the Internet, I found theraband flexbar with tyler twist exercise to be effective. I also make sure I stretch and apply heat to the tendon area before doing reps with flexbar, resistant band as well as hammer drop. There is improving but quite slower than regular injury since tendon heal in a mysterious way. Suck getting old I guess.

    • Dr. Chris
      Posted at 21:51h, 20 December Reply

      Great awareness Jason. Just realize if the pain continues, the tendon is guaranteed to get worse. It becomes tendonosis and most tears happen to tendonotic tendons. Highly recommend getting your adhesion removed or getting an MRI to see how badly it’s damaged.

  • Sharon Purvis
    Posted at 15:15h, 26 July Reply

    I saw my Workmans Comp Dr. Back in February and he said I have tennis elbow ( I knew that I had it in my other arm a yr earlier) he gave me a steroid shot sent me to PT and when I was done with PT he told me to wear my brace when I’m at work and I’m good to go, we’ll now it’s July the pain came back and the brace isn’t helping any ideas?

    • Dr. Chris
      Posted at 19:18h, 27 July Reply

      This is the problem with incomplete diagnoses and bastardized insurance treatments that companies can charge for.

      I recommend seeing someone who knows how to diagnose and treat it.

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