A forearm band is a type of orthotic device used to help mitigate the symptoms associated with tennis elbow, tendinitis, and other similar conditions. Wearing one typically eases strain on ligaments, tendons, and muscles between the wrist and elbow, and can prevent pain and damage due to swelling and overuse. The most common type of forearm band is simply a padded nylon or Neoprene® strap with a Velcro® cinch.
Generally, use of a forearm band is an initial, conservative step in the treatment of forearm pain. This pain is commonly diagnosed as being symptomatic of tendon-related conditions like tennis elbow, also known as lateral epicondylitis. Such injuries are characterized by stiffness and pain in the elbow and on down the wrist, both at rest and exacerbated during certain movements.
Tennis elbow, as its name implies, is a common condition among players of the game due to the particular biomechanical stresses inherent in a tennis swing. It is hardly limited to this group however, and can occur as a repetitive stress injury among a wide variety of people who do a lot of work with their arms. Whereas tennis elbow is the name given to pain on the outside of the elbow, pain on the inside is referred to as golfer's elbow, which is otherwise a similar condition. Either injury can also flare up following a distinct single trauma, though this is less common.
The normal prescriptive use of a forearm band calls for wearing it during the waking hours for a period of several weeks. This is coupled with regular icing, a conscious effort to rest the afflicted arm as much as possible, and regular doses of pain relievers and anti-inflammatory drugs. More aggressive treatments include ultrasound and cortisone injections. Only in severe cases is surgery needed to repair damage.
A forearm band limits pain by isolating and compressing injured tendons in the elbow, and restricting their movement. This in turn gives the damaged tissue a chance to repair itself without the risk of constant re-injury. The band is properly worn a short distance below the actual source of pain in the arm, and not directly over it. Physical therapy is usually recommended to help strengthen the elbow area after it is judged to have healed sufficiently.
Though basic forearm straps are little more than padded Velcro® bands, there are added features that more expensive models may have. These include gel inserts that can be heated or frozen to aid in healing, and pneumatic bladders that can be inflated to increase compression, among other things. These are certainly luxury options, however, and ultimately not required for a forearm band to be effective if it is worn correctly.