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To Brace or Not To Brace? – Wrist and Elbow Braces

To Brace or Not To Brace? – Wrist and Elbow Braces

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Many people use braces to prevent an injury or when making a return to activity following an injury. Knowing what type of brace to use and the proper way to use it is crucial to ensure you are getting the maximum benefit and not having the brace causing additional injuries or pain. In part one of this series, we looked at back braces. This article will focus on braces worn on your wrist and elbow.

Wrist Braces

Rigid wrist splints typically have stiff supports on the top or bottom that prevent your wrist from bending forwards or backwards. These are best used after a strain/sprain injury or after having a cast removed. Many people also opt to use this style of brace when they are experiencing carpal tunnel symptoms (numbness, tingling and pain in the thumb, index and middle fingers) however if the supports are positioned on the palm side of the wrist they can potentially increase pressure on the carpal tunnel and make symptoms worse. This can be the case with office workers who type and mouse while wearing this style of brace.

Read more about carpel tunnel syndrome and other common causes of wrist pain.

Wrist compression sleeves are made of a thinner, lightweight, stretchy material. These sleeves create a light compression around the wrist which can help reduce inflammation in the carpal tunnel without putting direct pressure on the soft structures. These braces are also helpful for people with arthritis pain. Because these sleeves only increase compression by a small amount it is generally safe to wear them for prolonged periods during the day. However we recommend removing them overnight as it can lead to reduced blood flow to the hand and fingers which may result in injury.

Elbow Braces

Forearm strap braces are used when people are experiencing tennis and golfer’s elbow. These braces are a narrow strap that encircles the forearm with a small piece of padding that can be cinched tight. These braces are meant to fit around the top of the forearm, just below the elbow joint. The padded insert can then be positioned on the outside of the elbow (for tennis elbow) or on the inside (for golfer’s elbow). These braces help to reduce elbow pain as the brace reduces the tension being pulled on the common tendon origins just above the elbow joint. It is not uncommon to see these forearm strap braces combined with an elbow compression sleeve to further reduce inflammation.

Increasing blood flow to the muscles in the forearm can also alleviate the symptoms of tennis and golfer’s elbow. Putting down tools when you aren’t using them and resting your hands to the sides of the keyboard and mouse when you aren’t actively typing and mousing can help restore normal blood flow. Performing the Deep Forearm Massage can also increase blood flow to promote healing by breaking up fascial adhesions that may be creating unnecessary tension. Adding a few Forearm Stretches after completing the massage can help move the blood through the tissues.

Some elbow compression sleeves come with a soft pad that is positioned around the tip of the elbow. This pad provides a cushion and allows for forces to be distributed away from the tip of the elbow to help prevent bursitis (swelling on the tip of the elbow, often occurs after falling and landing on the elbow).

Rigid hinged elbow braces are used following a traumatic injury to the muscles or ligaments in the elbow. Initially these braces restrict potentially harmful ranges of motion so sufficient healing can occur. After the injury has healed these braces might be used again when the user returns to sports or other rigorous activities to prevent re-injury.

Want more information about using braces for work? Learn about lower back braces and upper body posture straps, and knee and ankle braces in parts 1 & 3 of this series.

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