Bracing is a topic we often discuss at Active Sport Physiotherapy Clinic—with our patients and amongst our staff. It’s a therapy option that we sometimes recommend to our patients when they’ve experienced an injury or injury, or suffer from a chronic condition that requires extra support for their joints or limbs.
Since we get asked a lot of questions about bracing, this month’s post answers some of your most frequently asked questions.
Q: What are the benefits of using a brace?
A: Whether you’re an athlete or not, wearing a brace can help keep your joints moving naturally and help prevent injury. For those who have sustained previous injuries, a brace can provide added support and stabilization so you can return to sports or work, accomplish everyday tasks without pain or weakness. Apart from the physical benefits, the right brace can also give you the confidence to move more freely, without the worry of hurting yourself again.
Q: Are there different types of braces or are they all the same?
A. Not all braces are designed for the same purpose.
For ankles, knees, and joints, the options are:
- Supportive braces are designed to support your joints or limbs after you’ve injured yourself and until you’ve completely recovered.
- Functional braces allow an earlier return to sport or activity and can reduce the chance to re-injury.
- Rehabilitation braces are used temporarily to allow for progression range of motion of your joint. These are typically used after surgery.
- Light Arthritic or Proprioceptive braces are designed for light support and compression. These come in the form of braces, sleeves or wraps.
- Immobilization braces are meant for splinting, partially or completely immobilizing your joint.
Lower back braces sit in a category of their own. They can help you remain comfortable in an acute state. But be cautious: research has shown that back braces do not reduce the chance of injury.
Back braces have various grades of support:
- The lighter compressive model is meant for comfort and spasm prevention
- The medium compression model can immobilize your back to a certain extent and will prevent you from moving in a painful manner.
- The last and sturdier model is meant to immobilize you if you’ve suffered from a back fracture or other acute and severe back conditions.
Q: What about slings?
A: Slings are meant to be used for upper arm injuries—things like supporting the arm and unloading the shoulder. Using a sling can help with your recovery while avoiding constant re-aggravation.
- A generic sling supports the forearm with a padded strap over the shoulder and sometimes a strap around the waist to avoid movement of the arm when walking.
- Some specialized slings have “pie shaped” cushion between the body and the forearm to position the shoulder at the desired angle—those slings are typically used after rotator cuff surgeries.
- Some other slings have a variation of shoulder straps to spread the load of the arm and avoid neck pain.
Q: Why is fit so important?
When buying a brace, fit is important but so is making sure that you get the right brace to address your injury and that the design works for you.
The right brace will help with proper joint alignment, support your injured area and/or help restrict movement that could further injure you or cause you pain.
Q: How do I know what brace is right for me?
A: Our team is here to help identify the best bracing options for your condition, as well and measure and fit your brace appropriately. We’ll make sure you have the optimal support you need.
Q: What is the cost of a good brace?
A: Depending on your needs, your slings or brace can range in cost. Until we know exactly what type of support or stabilization, it’s difficult to say. An off-the-shelf brace option is the most affordable option but we only recommend these in the right conditions. When an off-the-shelf brace isn’t right for you, the custom brace is the best solution though it does comes with a higher price tag. Remember: you can’t put a price on extra support for your joints and limbs!
Q: Do I need to go to Ottawa or Montreal to buy my brace?
A: We make a point of carrying top of the line braces here at our Brace Corner in Cornwall so you can avoid travelling out of town. We offer off-the-shelf and custom support and orthotics, including ankle supports, knee braces, tennis elbow straps, post-surgical braces and slings, and more.
If you have any other questions about bracing, reach out to us. We’re here to answer all your questions!