You’ve probably seen someone wearing a knee or wrist brace, or even been recommended a medical brace yourself. However, if you’re new to medical bracing you may be wondering what exactly a medical brace is and who can benefit from using them.
What are Medical Braces (Orthopedic Braces)?
Medical braces, also called orthopedic braces, address various musculoskeletal concerns by stabilizing, aligning and facilitating proper positioning during movements for those who have experienced an injury or trauma or have certain musculoskeletal conditions. Medical braces can be used on various parts of the body and come in a variety of “styles” including compression sleeves or more rigid bracing as you’d see with something like a broken foot (using a boot).
Types of Braces
While things like boots given to those that have broken their foot are considered orthopedic braces, you don’t need to have suffered a broken bone to be recommended a medical brace. Commonly prescribed medical braces include:
Back and lumbar braces can be used for several reasons. A common one that you may have seen is scoliosis. Scoliosis requires a very specific, custom fit brace that is often worn all day except for sleeping and certain activities. Braces for scoliosis are made to prevent further progression of the scoliosis curve in the spine.
Lumbar braces are another popular back brace. These are typically used to help with recovery from injury or sometimes surgery. These braces help take some pressure off the lumbar spine, provide support, and can keep you from doing certain motions that may aggravate an injury. Lumbar braces are also popular for individuals that do a lot of heavy lifting – either at the gym or for work, to help prevent injury through repetitive strain and lifting motions.
Wrist braces are common for those with weak wrists, arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome. They can be used preventatively (to help minimize progression of carpal tunnel symptoms) and/or in the recovery process.
Wrist braces can reduce symptoms by stabilizing the risk and relieving pressure off of certain nerves and wrist structures. They may be worn at night, during the day or only during aggravating activities such as repetitive motions, depending on the condition they are being used for.
Ankle braces are commonly used both in the recovery process of an injury and as a preventative measure. They’re commonly used with athletes to help avoid frequent and/or common ankle injuries.
When used in recovery, they keep the ankle stabilized and provide a level of compression to help with swelling and circulation. They are especially helpful for strains, sprains and other minor ankle injuries.
Compression wear such as compression socks or compression sleeves for knees and elbows are also considered medical braces even though they’re not the rigid type of brace that you may think of when you think of orthopedic bracing.
Compression sleeves for knees, elbows and other joints are beneficial for those that may experience pain in these joints either from arthritis or from certain exercises. These types of compression braces are also beneficial for proprioception making them an important tool for those with conditions such as hypermobility syndrome (HSD) and Ehlers Danlos’ Syndrome (EDS) where the range of motion is greater than normal and awareness of their body and joints in space is limited.
Compression socks are extremely common and are known for helping with circulation in those with varicose veins, lower limb swelling, diabetes and other circulatory issues.
Knee braces are most commonly prescribed to athletes to stabilize previously injured knees, help with recovery from an injury or prevent injury in sports where knee injuries are common. Knee braces come in a variety of forms from compression sleeves to rigid braces depending on their purpose.
A more rigid brace may be used when recovering from ACL surgery, whereas a “functional” or softer brace may be used to prevent injury while working out or playing sports.
Who Needs a Medical Brace?
Here are some reasons you may consider medical braces:
- You’re an athlete – for preventative reasons, injury or recovery.
- You’re recovering from surgery or an injury.
- You have scoliosis.
- You have circulatory issues.
- You have arthritis or carpal tunnel syndrome.
- You have HSD or EDS.
- Preventing injury – in athletes, those who regularly need to lift things, etc.
- You experience pain at a particular joint during exercise or particular movements.
Medical braces can be beneficial for a variety of reasons, but you should always be evaluated by a professional such as the ones at Evergreen Rehab & Wellness if you’re considering a brace. Physiotherapists and those trained in custom bracing will be able to recommend or make medical braces to fit your body and specific needs; braces that don’t fit correctly can cause more harm than good.