There comes a time in almost everyone’s life when they need a little more support than their joints can provide. This is a situation that athletes run into all the time, often in response to a particularly strenuous training activity or while recovering from an injury. Of course, non-athletes find themselves needing joint support as well. There are a variety of medical conditions, situations, and labor-intensive jobs that benefit, even require, the use of a ‘sports’ brace. If you’ve ever suffered from carpal tunnel syndrome, turned an ankle, or fallen wrong on a knee, you have at least some experience with braces but most people don’t realize just how useful a sports brace can be. Today we’re here to talk about ten different, very common situations that benefit from a high-quality brace.
1) Recovering from a Sprained Ankle
When it comes to joint injuries, sprained ankles are by far the most common. It’s all too easy to step wrong just once and over-extend your ankle tendon. When this happens, small tears occur in the tendon which is why you experience both pain and a great deal of swelling. Though it takes less than a second to sprain your ankle, it can take up to three months to actually heal. During the first portion of the healing process, when the ankle is still swelling, a compression brace can help you to keep the swelling down while simultaneously protecting the ankle from further injury. Once the swelling goes down, you may also benefit from the occasional use of a rigid brace so that you can get around without risk of over-extending the tendon during recovery.
2) Supporting a Weak Knee or Elbow
Of course, joint weakness doesn’t always come from injury. Many people, especially once they get involved in athletics or a labor-intensive job, realize that a particular joint is weaker than usual and may need a little extra support during strenuous activities. This is most likely to be seen in knees or elbows which we rely on to do the vast majority of our heavy lifting. Wearing a knee brace to provide support to an unstable or weakened knee joint is incredibly common, particularly when you’re about to do a lot of walking, lifting, or fast movement in which you may change direction suddenly.
Elbows, on the other hand, need support in situations where you may be operating heavy tools or machinery, lifting boxes, or helping to transport heavy objects like furniture or construction material. Athletes often wear elbow braces to help with sports that require a racket, club, bat, or throwing a ball. If you have noticed that a knee or elbow tends to hurt after or during physical activity, a supportive brace could be the exact solution you’re looking for to help distribute the load and prevent the joint from twisting out of position.
3) Combatting Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Sometimes, major physical activity isn’t even required for a brace to provide a great deal of help. Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when one or more nerves in your wrist is pinched by contraction of the carpal tunnel, the channel in your wrist that all the nerves and tendons for your hand run through. The most common cause of carpal tunnel syndrome is desk work with a non-ideal keyboard setup which results in swelling and tension, but some people develop carpal tunnel without the usual triggers.
While most people know that there are certain braces that can help with this condition, why it helps is less common knowledge. The right brace for treating carpal tunnel is at least semi-rigid and holds the wrist in a straight or slightly bent back position, helping to relax and open up the carpal tunnel to relieve the symptoms of pain or numbness.
4) Applying No-Hands Heat or Cold Treatment
When most people think about sports and recovery braces, their primary thoughts are about how to hold a joint in place, protect it from impacts, and keep you from over-working an injured or recovering area. However, this isn’t the only use for braces. If you have ever had a minor injury or even just a badly knotted muscle, you know that holding ice packs or hot compresses to the affected area can be incredibly tedious. Simply treating the area correctly can take up hours of your time, a slow down that nobody appreciates but modern brace technology has an answer for.
If you’re tired of holding the ice or heat pack to an injured ankle, elbow, or long muscle, consider looking into the special kind of soft braces that come with pockets. While you could theoretically use these pockets for anything from spare change to your smartphone, what they’re meant for is to hold hot or cold packs firmly to your body, leaving your hands free to do other things.
5) After Throwing Out Your Back
Throwing out your back is one of the most painful and frustrating experiences that an adult can go through, and many do at some point in their lives. If you have been through this ordeal, you know how challenging it can be to stay lying down during the recommended time and to limit your activities to ‘light duty’ when you’re used to high levels of exercise or activity in your professional and personal life. While a brace can’t save you from a certain amount of recovery time, a good back brace can absolutely help you get back into the game faster and protect your back from future ‘throws’.
In fact, many professions advise the use of a back brace for any heavy lifting activities because the additional support can help to prevent back injuries even if you’ve never experienced one before. If there is a great deal of lifting in your day-to-day life or even in a single upcoming event like moving homes, you may want a back brace just to protect yourself from accidentally throwing out your back.
6) Getting Back Into Sports After Recovery
When a joint has been injured once, especially if it has been damaged recently or on multiple occasions, it can take a great deal of time and effort to bring it back to its original strength and resilience. In fact, many people find that after several injuries in the same spot, that joint is never quite as strong as it once was. Fortunately, you don’t have to let one weakened joint spoil your athletic and career aspirations. It is incredibly common to wear a brace while exercising or working to help support a joint that has taken a significant amount of damage in the past.
Athletes wear braces over knees and elbows that they’ve realized are at a greater risk of serial injuries, as do people in significantly athletic occupations. While there is a debate on whether or not wearing a brace all the time is beneficial, be sure to ‘brace yourself’ quite literally before getting involved in an activity that could put a previously injured joint at risk.
7) Lifting Heavy Objects
Have we mentioned that lifting things is potentially dangerous? A great many sports-type injuries that happen off the field and out of the gym occur instead when people at home or work try to life unusually heavy objects. This can be anything from a new set of weights to a filing box stacked to the top with old paperwork. If you find yourself lifting heavy things regularly or even plan to do so once in the near future, it’s worth your while to consider which braces will be most useful to you. Naturally, a back brace can help but you may also want an elbow or wrist brace to support what is often the weakest link in the lifting process.
8) Comfy Compression During Your Workouts
Did you know that when some people wear braces, it had nothing to do with a negative condition at all. Often, when building new muscle or working on strengthening existing muscle, you may want to discourage swelling and increase awareness of your joints. One or more compression braces can help you with this task simply by applying a little bit if extra pressure to a limb or joint during your workout. This can serve to both reduce any swelling that would have taken place and to ever so slightly increase your awareness of your joints so that you move more carefully in the middle of intense physical activity.
9) Managing Arthritis with an Active Lifestyle
Arthritis, like Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, is a medical condition that happens to a large percentage of the population causing pain and swelling in any joint in the body depending on where arthritis develops for each individual person. In many cases, simply wearing a compression brace to keep down the swelling has a beneficial effect for those who suffer from arthritis, particularly in the knees. There are also more specialized braces available that can distribute weight and keep your joints as comfortably aligned as possible in order to relieve the painful results of progressive arthritis.
10) Preventing Injury in Contact Sports
For our final note, we’d like to talk about the risks to your joints involved in playing contact sports or participating in activities where you may change speed and direction suddenly. Contact sports like Football and Rugby often result in the participants getting tackled or experiencing impacts from the side which can be incredibly bad for knees and dangerous for the other joints as well while games that involve a great deal of running in general may result in accidentally pivoting incorrectly and wrenching your knee painfully. To prevent injuries related to these activities, many athletes and professionals wear a more rigid supportive type of brace with a built-in hinge to promote mobility while ensuring that directional joints are not forced into unnatural angles by impact or movement.
For more information about when and where a sports brace is exactly what you need for work, play, or recovery, contact us today!