An elbow wrap may refer to a variety of products that wrap around the elbow or that sit above or below the elbow. These include the very simple stretchy bandages like the Ace® type bandage, and many other devices that might provide some stabilization to the elbow. There are literally hundreds of elbow wrap styles available.
Many people wonder under what circumstances they should use an elbow wrap. Folks are cautioned not to use a wrap as a substitute for first getting diagnosis and care of an injured elbow. It may be the case that the wrap is a perfect solution for a certain type of injury, but not always. People don’t want to use an elbow wrap to treat a torn ligament (sprain), a break, or severe injuries to the muscles, and it may be impossible to tell without diagnosis exactly what is causing elbow pain.
On the other hand, after diagnosis, doctors may suggest that people use an elbow wrap. This then leads to decisions on what types of wraps to buy. If pain will be helped by icing or heating, there are, for instance, elbow wrap styles that have a convenient place to put a hot or cold pack. Some even have packs that contain herbs, which might smell nice but aren’t exactly proven cures for elbow pain. Similarly there are packs that contain magnets, which anecdotally are thought to relieve discomfort.
Another elbow wrap type sits either above or below the elbow and produces LED signals that are said to cure the arm of discomfort or prevent pain. The pricey nature of these wraps suggest they must be the best on the market, but there is little proven evidence they work. Moreover, many people need the wrap to stabilize the elbow in place, and this is better effected by having wrapping above and below the elbow to restrict movement.
Though there is great range in price and features of elbow wraps, people shouldn’t get frustrated. Most often they can find a few styles at a pharmacy that are perfectly adequate to the task of placing compression on the elbow, or providing stabilization for it, so that pain is lessened. For some people, it’s perfectly possible to get away with using a stretchy bandage. This is certainly cheaper than most wraps/braces/etc. Others find bandages don’t provide enough compression or may seriously limit movement.
When in doubt, best advice is to ask a doctor which elbow wrap is most appropriate for elbow pain. People can also ask their doctors how long they should wear a wrap daily, and for how many days they should wear the wrap. Knowing when to head back to the doctor, if symptoms aren’t improved, is very valuable.