Scientists don’t know why some people develop tennis elbow and other don’t, but they have proved that a tennis arm brace or sleeve can provide short-term relief. Unlike, say, ankle braces, which many utilize to support an old soccer injury or a breakdancing session gone awry, tennis arm braces and sleeves aren’t worn to prevent — they’re worn to treat.
Solving the root issue, however, can be much more laborious. “You have to find the cause, and that can be tricky,” says Nikola Aracic, a 46-year-old tennis instructor in Palm Beach, Florida, and founder of the popular YouTube channel Intuitive Tennis. So examine your equipment, train with proper technique, and shore up your muscle imbalances. But for now, the best tennis arm braces and sleeves can have some benefit as far as pain (and your ability to play through that pain). “They will provide relief,” Aracic says.
Most tennis elbow braces are quite affordable — you should expect to pay between $20 and $30. The caveat is that for frequent players, multiples will be most convenient, and your costs will increase significantly. With compression sleeves, you should expect to pay between $20 and $40, depending on the coverage and the quality of compression.
The Best Tennis Elbow Braces and Sleeves: At a Glance
ASO Epigel Elbow Support Brace Universal
According to the experts we interviewed for this story, the brace that kept coming up was the ASO Epigel, which utilizes a soft, comfortable gel piece to support the injured tendon while reducing vibration from ball contact. It’s also slightly cool, creating a pleasant sensation.
Aracic sees many players using this type of brace on the courts, likely due to its adjustability, which allows for accommodating the greatest number of body types. Still, its immediate relief shouldn’t be the end goal. “When you find the cause, then you can get rid of tennis elbow or other kinds of arm pain,” he adds. “Then you won’t have to play with anything.”
Nike Pro Elbow Band 3.0
The lightest tennis elbow brace on this list, it’s the choice for the competitor who doesn’t have time for any extra weight. Utilizing elastic and perforated foam, it secures quickly and securely through Velcro. Two sizes provide the perfect fit without extra material.
Band-IT Elbow Brace
Orthopedic surgeon Donald Fareed, M.D, designed this elbow brace after decades of work with athletes at the highest level, including Davis Cup players. It works via targeted support around the forearm, making it a useful treatment for tennis elbow as well as other repetitive strain injuries.
OS1st ES3 Performance Elbow Sleeve
For those who feel that a traditional elbow brace is too foreign, we like the support provided by the slip-on OS1st ES3 Performance Elbow Sleeve. Its light compression holds tendons to provide relief without any of the rigidity of Velcro.
Pro-Tec 3D Flat Elbow Sleeve
For those looking for more coverage short of a full sleeve, the Pro-Tec 3D Flat Elbow Sleeve sits mid-tricep and covers well down through the forearm. Targeted compression zones ensure you’re supported everywhere you need to be without the hassle of straps.
Zensah Ultra Compression Arm Sleeves
First rising to prominence within the distance running community with its socks, Zensah now makes compression products for a variety of sports. In addition to targeted muscle and tendon support, these sleeves provide sun protection and are treated with an anti-microbial product to reduce stink over time. Plus, they feel great after a long set. “It feels good to have something around your arm, especially if you’re sore,” says Aracic.
iM Sports Match Point Tennis Arm Sleeves
While the Match Point won’t have the greatest compression on this list, sometimes a tight sleeve isn’t what you want, but rather warmth on a chilly day. And you wouldn’t be alone: “It’s totally fine — you see them on the pros,” says Beckett Chung, a former collegiate tennis player who now runs the popular YouTube channel TennCom.
CEP Compression Arm Sleeves
In addition to muscle and tendon support, full-length compression sleeves like those by the German company CEP have been scientifically proven to improve circulation. “Their purpose for using them is primarily the benefit of blood circulation that I feel whenever I’m playing tennis,” says Winston Du, a 4.5 UTR singles player and founder of his eponymous YouTube tennis channel.
Frequently Asked Questions About Tennis Elbow Braces and Sleeves
Will a tennis arm brace, even a great one, fix my tennis elbow?
No. No, no, no.
So what can fix my tennis elbow?
Beyond evaluating your equipment and refining your technique? The short answer is the right kind of strength training. Focusing on the grip muscles seems to be key, according to a 2012 New York Times story about emerging research on tendonitis. “It really did the trick,” says Rosecrans Baldwin, a features writer in Los Angeles who famously made a run at qualifying for the U.S. Open.
I like to buy things. What can I buy to exercise so that I can fix my tennis elbow?
Clinically Fit makes a product that looks like a homemade Wolverine claw kit. It fits the bill. We also like the powerlifting company IronMind’s Expand Your Hand Bands. Its progressive system of rubber bands strengthens extensors to balance grip strength, as well as rehab existing injuries.
I’m broke. What can I do for free to strengthen and rehab my painful arm?
Source a number of rubber bands and use them as you would the IronMind, as mentioned above.
All of this seems too hard. Is there an easier sport I can do?
The pickleball courts can always use more players.