To Splint or Not to Splint for Tennis Elbow

Does splinting help with tennis elbow? Studies so far say, "No." Forearm bands increase muscle fatigue. Splints prevent activity and may lead to deconditioning. This study looked at the effects of splinting for injured workers with epicondylitis or tennis elbow."

All patients with tennis elbow going to any one of 253 occupational medical centers were included. A total of 4,614 patients were studied. Each patient was identified as being treated with "splints" or "no splints." Splints included any restraint to the elbow, forearm, or wrist. Braces, splints, straps, and wrap bandages all counted as splints.

The results of this study were able to show who is more likely to get splints. The splint group was women with moderate to severe pain on the outside of the elbow (lateral epicondylitis). This information suggests that the decision to use splinting isn't random. There are certain patients more likely to get a splint.

This study also showed patients with splints had more visits to the doctor or physical therapist with higher overall costs. The splinting group had higher rates of limited duty at work. The authors conclude that patients with tennis elbow who remain active do better than those who rest using splints.

References: V. Jane Derebery, MD, et al. The Effects of Splinting on Outcomes for Epicondylitis. In Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. June 2005. Vol. 86. No. 6. Pp. 1081-1088.