Elbow compression sleeves have become a common sight both on and off of the playing field and at the local gym.
Elbow injuries have become commonplace, and are often overlooked allowing for dangerous progression and irreversible damage.
When these injuries are discovered early, they can be treated with various types of physiotherapy including the use of a compression sleeve.
Compression sleeves work in various ways, and features are designed with specific uses in mind.
One compression sleeve might work perfectly for one athlete and be rendered useless for another.
Deciding which sleeve is best for you hinges on an understanding of your personal injury.
In this article, we cover the function of different elbow sleeve designs, give an overview of the most common elbow injuries, and give our recommendations for 5 of the best sleeves on the market, in both effectiveness and value.
Anatomy 101: The Elbow
Let’s take a quick look at the elbow. Three main bones (the radius, the ulna and the humerus) provide the structure and are separated from each other on the ends by a cushioned layer of cartilage that allows for smooth rotation.
They are held together by a medial collateral ligament (on the inside) and the lateral collateral ligament (on the outside).
Assorted tendons then attach the muscles – biceps, triceps and the important extensor carpi radialis – to the bone.
The most common injuries to the elbow are overuse of ligaments due to repetitive movements, overtraining, or improper form.
Tennis Elbow is found in over 50% of tennis players and is thought to be the cause of repetitive hand movement while practising the sport.
Other common injuries such as Cubital Tunnel Syndrome are also the result of trauma or repetitive use.
When it comes to sports injuries or elbow pain, most symptoms can be treated with compression sleeves that help to support the ligaments and joints, and promote recovery by providing warmth and increased blood flow.
Along with compression sleeves, daily exercises can help to alleviate pain and tenderness.
The Role of Compression Sleeves:
There are various benefits that compression sleeves provide, both before, during and after exercise. Understanding each of these roles is important to ensure you are maximizing the use of your sleeve.
- Before a workout and off the playing field, compression sleeves with adequate thickness support vulnerable injuries and provide warmth to increase blood flow and oxygenation.
- During exercise, sleeves can provide structure to prevent the degradation of a sensitive ligament or muscle.
- After a workout, compression can decrease swelling and inflammation, subside perceived soreness and promote fast recovery.
What type of sleeve you choose should depend on what type of injury you are trying to mitigate.
For example, if you are in recovery you might need a sleeve with more support.
If you are acting preventatively, you might opt for a sleeve that provides more warmth. While these compression sleeves can assist and prevent many types of elbow injuries, some specialize in specific needs.
Next, we go through our 5 favorite elbow compression sleeves and how each should be effectively used.
Kunto Fitness: Elbow Compression Support Sleeve
It’s fashionable and effective.
It has a non-slip surface to avoid skin or hair bunching. And it is very warm, allowing for increased blood flow and fast recovery.
This sleeve is moderately thick, making it ideal for structure and support, but slightly mobility limiting compared to other sleeves.
For those who are nursing a previous injury and need mild amounts of support during and after their workouts, the Kunto Fitness Sleeve is a great option.
Copper Compression: Recovery Elbow Sleeve
These copper-infused sleeves use copper ions (Cu+ and Cu++) which have anti-microbial properties thought to prevent odor and increase health and wellness.
While studies of copper-infused clothing have not shown dramatic effects in regards to muscle recovery, the copper ion addition allows for lightweight strength.
It’s comfortable, machine washable and ultra-durable.
The copper infusion allows the material to be breathable while not sacrificing structure.
It’s lightweight and accessible, making it ideal for those who have mild and continuous conditions such as tendonitis or arthritis.
Nordic: Lifting Elbow Compression Sleeve
These Nordic compression sleeves have been applauded by many satisfied reviewers.
Similar to the Kunto sleeve, these sleeves are made thicker (2mm) to provide the maximum amount of support for those who may have an injury or are in danger of getting one.
Unlike Kunto, Nordic reinforces its sleeves with Latex which provides unmatched functionality but comes at a cost for those with a skin allergy.
It has a unisex design and is incredibly comfortable. As it is designed with compression in mind, those with large arms might find the Nordic sleeves too tight.
This sleeve will most likely limit your range of motion, as it is designed to provide ultimate support and structure to injured ligaments and muscles.
To combat the heat byproduct of a thicker design, the Mava sleeve is made of bamboo, preventing odor and reducing itching and irritation.
For those worried about aggravating an injury or overextending a prior one, it might be best to be proactive and opt for the extra support this sleeve can provide.
For those who are looking for protection but don’t want their high-intensity workouts to be limited in mobility, it would be better to go for a thinner product.
Dr. Arthritis: Copper Elbow Brace
With this lightweight product created by doctors for athletes, a balance between prevention and range of motion is at the center of the design.
With high copper content (88% copper-infused nylon) it is durable while still thin and flexible. Perfect for those who require prevention rather than recovery, and for those who need gentle warmth and support due to arthritis or cubital tunnel syndrome.
Designed for golfers, tennis players and recreational athletes.
There you have it, a rundown on elbow compression sleeves.
Hopefully, this article has given you a better understanding of design and function and will assist in choosing the perfect product for your needs.
Keep those elbows protected!
Chris is an experienced Calisthenics practitioner focused on isometric exercises and street workout. He founded thehybridathlete.com in 2017, which was subsequently acquired by theyhybridathlete.com
He is based in Portland and has been working out using solely his own body weight and bars for the past 6 years.