"Tennis elbow" is an aggravation or tear of the tendons attached to the bony prominence of the humerus in the upper arm known as the lateral epicondyle. It can begin as an acute injury or result from improper technique in sports that require grasping or squeezing. Tennis elbow can take a long time to heal because the tendons involved are used so frequently in everyday activities. Wrapping with a counter-force brace can re-align tendons and provide relief that prevents more serious measures such as steroid treatment or surgery.
Wrapping a Compression Bandage
Assess the injury. Tennis elbow causes a dull ache to a sharp pain when grasping or squeezing. The pain is on the outside of the elbow just below the upper arm.
Treat acute injury. Use cold compresses to treat a sudden or acute injury. Cold compresses are good for the first few days. Rest the injury and alternate ice with a compression bandage. After three days, persistent injury can be treated with alternating cold and warm compresses.
Start the wrap. The lateral epicondyle attaches muscles in the outer forearm to the base of the bone in the upper arm at the elbow. Start the wrap just below the elbow and encircle the upper forearm. Commercial bandages often have a pad or air pillow insert that provides extra pressure directly on the aggravated tendons.
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Repeat to provide counter-force. Continue wrapping in the same area several times to provide compression. The bandage should be snug but not uncomfortable or restrict circulation. If you feel your pulse beneath the bandage, it is probably too tight.
Wrap the bottom of the upper arm. Start wrapping around the base of the upper arm at the base of the bicep. This stabilizes the bandage and keeps it from slipping down the forearm.
Lock the wrap. Tuck the end of the bandage under a previous wrap to keep it from unraveling. You can also tape or pin the end of the bandage to keep it in place.
Change the bandage frequently. If the bandage is uncomfortable or loses compression, re-wrap the bandage. The bandage should be worn during any physical activities involving gripping or squeezing. Do not wear the bandage at night or when it is not needed. You don't want to build up a reliance on the bandage--you want to cure the problem and be free of the bandage.
Some exercises may help improve tennis elbow. Consult a sports therapist for exercises that may aid in healing tennis elbow.
Tennis elbow will reappear suddenly after you think it is cured--wear the bandage for a week to a month after symptoms have disappeared to prevent re-injury. Have your technique analyzed by a sports therapist to avoid repeat injury.