Confused About Bracing?
Mikaela Patterson, B.Sc (HS)
Kintec Fitting Expert and Certified Brace Fitter
British Columbia is full of fun physical activities. Whether it’s playing soccer, mountain biking, weight lifting, hiking, surfing, or snowboarding, there’s something out there for everyone. Unfortunately, the activities we love so much present the risk of injury and thus, the need for bracing. The purpose of bracing is to support and restrict the range of motion of an injured joint to promote recovery or offer protection when returning to activity. Some of the more frequently used braces are listed below:
Knee braces can be equipped with several features depending on the injury. Some of the common features in knee braces are: metal hinges for medial and lateral support, sleeves to provide compression against swelling, and padding (buttress) to cushion and support the knee cap.
Ankle braces are designed to restrict the “rolling motion” whether it’s rolling out (inversion) or rolling in (eversion). Ankle braces restrict these ranges of motion by either supporting with straps wrapped around the foot and ankle, or by having rigid splints on either side of joint.
There are several types of elbow braces, but the most frequently used elbow brace is for epicondylitis (tennis elbow). The braces work by adding pressure to the arm muscle, creating a “false” attachment to the bone, removing stress from the injured tendon (actual attachment), and allowing it to heal.
Night splints are designed to aid in healing Plantar Fasciitis and Achilles Tendonitis, but they are worn when at rest. These splints help relieve pain by holding the foot and ankle in a “stretched” position at night. This removes the morning tension and tearing that is associated with both Plantar Fasciitis and Achilles Tendonitis.
Braces are provided either over-the-counter or custom made. Over-the-counter braces are stocked by bracing retailers, made from an “averaged” model of a body part (knee, ankle, etc.), purchased by size (small, medium, etc.), and are often used for strains, sprains, or excessive range of motion. Custom braces are used for ligament tears, hypermobility, arthritis management, and they are made on an individual basis.
A medical referral is required for custom braces, and is recommended for over-the-counter braces as well. This ensures consistency between the health care professional’s recommendations and the patient’s treatment plan.
It is important to work with your doctor on a treatment plan for an injury. Braces are useful, but full rehabilitation also requires physiotherapy, massage therapy, or chiropractic treatments.
Once you have returned to activity, it’s important to wear the brace in environments that present a higher risk of re-injury. Working regularly with allied health professionals (physio, massage, etc.) will also improve your day-to-day function.
If you do end up with an injury, talk to your doctor. They will be able to offer recommendations for healing; whether it’s rest, physio, a brace, or a combination of the three.
Stay active, have fun, and be safe.