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Johns Hopkins Health - Tennis Elbow: A Force to Be Reckoned With

Spring 2014
Issue No. 24

Tennis Elbow: A Force to Be Reckoned With

Date: April 1, 2014

tennis elbow

Among the annual rites of spring is a triumphant return to the tennis court  and the golf course. But this year, your game is hampered by pain.

Commonly known as tennis elbow or golfer’s elbow, depending on whether the affected tendons are inside or outside the joint, inflammation starts at the elbow and can radiate down to the hand and up to the shoulder. Any stressful motion, including playing sports and gardening, can cause the discomfort.

Tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow will improve on their own by resting the arm, but over-the-counter braces that exert pressure just below the elbow, known as counterforce braces, can provide relief, even during activity, says Edward McFarland, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon at Johns Hopkins.

“They’re not expensive, and if they don’t work, they don’t cause harm,” he says. “I encourage people to try them.” There are no studies confirming the effectiveness of counterforce braces, and they’re not useful for everyone, McFarland notes, but if they do provide relief, “they should start helping right away.”

McFarland recommends choosing a narrow band, rather than a wide one, for the greatest relief, and wearing it during activity that puts strain on the elbow. “The theory is that you can press the muscle using the band,” he explains, “and that takes some of the pressure off the tendon at the elbow.”

If counterforce braces don’t provide relief, it’s best to take a break from the activity that is causing the pain and see a doctor.

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