We often see major sports athletes wearing knee sleeves, but the less popular elbow sleeve may just be as important, especially if you’re regularly in the gym and lifting weights!
But what are elbow sleeves I hear you ask and why use them?
These are sleeves you wear on your elbows to keep warm, help relieve aches and pains, and help you avoid injury.
Elbow sleeves provide compression and improve muscle tissue oxygenation – which enhances your performance during short bouts of exercise. Keeping your joints warm also means helping your connective tissue warm up more effectively, which is particularly important as you get older.
In fact, they were initially used to cure problems related to blood vessel disorders, and have been around for about 60 years. It helps lower blood lactate level and blood pooling, which means lesser pain and swelling.
They’re legal to use in weightlifting competitions except for the bench press, because springier types of elbow sleeves help lock out the lift – and that’s why all elbow protection is not allowed for competition benching.
How is the elbow sleeve different from the compression cuff or elbow wrap?
Elbow sleeves and compression cuffs are pretty similar to each other – they both provide compression to help with your aches and pains, provide muscle support, help you recover from muscle injury faster, and help you avoid new injury.
That said, the cuff is much smaller than the sleeve and is mostly for localized joint compression to help reduce pain, which then allows you to exercise more than if you weren’t wearing one.
Since it is much smaller, you may get a little bit more mobility using cuffs – however that also means you get less support during strenuous exercise, and retain less warmth.
As for wraps, they’re less easy to use and wear, and are more intrusive. However, if you don’t have elbow sleeves or a compression cuff and are recovering from an injury, then using an elbow wrap would be the better option than not using any safety gear or accessory at all.
Should you wear elbow sleeves?
The short answer is yes. Any type of safety gear or accessory that prevents unnecessary muscle stretching and provides muscle support should always be used when you’re doing strenuous exercises and lifting weights.
What’s more important than wearing such gear and accessories though is that you practice the proper technique – and that your technique doesn’t get compromised by wearing them – i.e. you no longer know how to do the proper technique when you take off your elbow sleeves.
In the event of an elbow injury:
- Protect your elbow immediately from possible further damage
- Place an ice pack on the affected area for 15 to 20 minutes (with short intervals in between, as necessary). Repeat throughout the day as often as needed to help relieve pain.
- Use a compression bandage to help relieve swelling
- Keep your arm elevated, and rest.
Avoid immediate further exercise. If you experience severe pain and/or have trouble moving your elbow and arm normally, seek professional medical attention.
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