Optimizing Elbow Rehabilitation: A Guide to Selecting and Using the Right Braces

Summary of Elbow Rehabilitation and Bracing

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  • The elbow joint, critical for hand movement relative to the body, has a complex structure prone to stiffness, especially when immobilized after trauma. Early mobilization is essential in post-traumatic scenarios, with a focus on protecting ligamentous structures during movement. Rehabilitation includes using elbow braces, which are selected based on the clinical situation and intended rehabilitation goals. These braces vary in type, offering different levels of protection, movement restriction, and dynamic or static movement. However, the success of using braces in rehabilitation largely depends on patient compliance.

Keywords: brace, elbow, rehabilitation, stiffness, trauma



  • The elbow facilitates various hand movements due to its complex interaction of muscles, soft tissues, and neuromotor control. It enables flexion-extension (adjusting limb length) and pronation-supination (rotating the palm). Immobilization post-injury or surgery can adversely affect these tissues and functions, necessitating early rehabilitation. This process should align with the healing phases, focusing on pain and swelling control, range of motion recovery, and regaining muscle flexibility and neuromuscular control.

Classification of Elbow Braces

Since elbow braces are used for different clinical situations and objectives, there exist several different types.

According to Jacobs , braces can have fixed protection or locked articulation, allow an adjustable ROM to restrict flexion-extension and pronation-supination, or allow dynamic and static progressive movement .

Furthermore, braces can be customized or ready-made. In the past the most commonly used materials for customized braces were metal alloys.

Currently, thermoplastic materials (polyethylene or polypropylene) are the ones mainly used, in thicknesses ranging from 2 to 5 mm according to the required stiffness and strength.

Braces manufactured with this type of material can be combined with straps or with unhinged, locked or progressively adjustable mechanical joints.

Splint tuners are mostly made of metal and serve to lock elbow flexion-extension at a set level.

The simplest ready-made braces are splints made of cardboard or cork which are fixed in place with elastic bands.

Cork braces, because of the flexibility of this material, allow small movements of the elbow and are therefore preferable in order to avoid excessive immobilization.

Ready-made braces mostly consist of an aluminum frame, which can be combined with a joint, padding and straps.

The joint may be the unrestrained or “ROM-type”, i.e. with a knob or Allen key for manual adjustment of the ROM.

The most commonly used paddings are silicone or neoprene; they help to avoid sores which would occur with direct contact between the limb and metal frame.



  • Elbow braces are crucial in the rehabilitation process following acute injury or surgical intervention. They aid in reducing venous stasis and regional pain syndrome, allowing safe movement within a ROM. The effective use of braces in conservative treatment and post-surgical rehabilitation is vital, though challenges include cost, physician involvement in patient education, and patient adherence to the treatment protocol.

In conclusion, the rehabilitation of the elbow joint is a multifaceted process that integrates early mobilization, protection of ligaments, and the use of specially designed braces. The type and effectiveness of braces depend on the individual's condition and their commitment to the rehabilitation program.


Classification of elbow braces.

Protective braces Fixed


Protective braces are typically used to prevent or support injuries caused by trauma, overuse, or instability of joints. Common causes for needing protective braces include sports injuries, arthritis, ligament instability, and post-operative support.


  1. Rest and activity modification
  2. Physical therapy for strength and stability
  3. Bracing for support and protection of affected joints
  4. Anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen or naproxen for pain and swelling
  5. Surgical intervention in severe cases


When using protective braces, it's important to follow the instructions provided by your healthcare professional. Regularly check the fit and condition of the brace, and follow up with your healthcare provider as instructed, usually every 4-6 weeks or as needed based on your condition.

With locked articulation
Braces with adjustable ROM Limitation of flexion/extension


Possible causes for braces with adjustable range of motion (ROM) include joint instability, post-operative rehabilitation, chronic joint pain, and musculoskeletal conditions requiring controlled movement and support.


  1. Customized physical therapy to improve joint stability and function.
  2. Adjustable ROM braces to gradually increase joint movement under medical supervision.
  3. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for pain management.
  4. Orthopedic consultation for surgical considerations if necessary.


Engage in recommended physical therapy exercises regularly and follow up with your healthcare provider every 4 to 6 weeks for evaluation of progress and adjustments to the treatment plan as needed.

Limitation of pronation/supination
Mobilization braces Dynamic


Possible reasons for the use of a movable support include fractures, sprains, joint dislocations, or the need to support a wound post-surgery, etc


  1. Adhere to your doctor's advice and wear the appropriate movable support.
  2. Engage in physical therapy to expedite recovery and undertake specific rehabilitative exercises as required.
  3. If necessary, your doctor might recommend pain medication (such as ibuprofen) to relieve pain and inflammation.


When using a movable support, closely follow your doctor's recommendations. Based on your condition, routinely consult your doctor to evaluate the effectiveness of the treatment.

The straps generally used are the kind with Velcro fasteners or press-studs. The straps serve to secure the brace to the limb and prevent it slipping out of place. In some cases a shoulder strap is provided to support the limb.