Finding the Right Shoulder Brace
Shoulder injuries can happen at any age but are most common among the elderly and athletes. They can happen on impact while participating in an activity, after a fall, or even from overuse. Some of the most common injuries include a dislocated shoulder, a torn rotator cuff, and a shoulder strain.
If you feel pain in your shoulder, you must immobilize your shoulder with a brace or a sling until you can get a diagnosis from a medical professional. It is important to understand the type and severity of the injury sustained.
A shoulder brace is a medical device that is made up of elastic straps and helps to keep the shoulder immobile in order for the injury to heal.
For Minor Issues such as Strain or Inflammation
You may need to stabilize your shoulder for minor strains or inflammation. This stabilization can help you stand up straighter or take some of the pressure off your rotator cuff and help with pain. A special, heat-activated tape known as kinesiology tape can help. You will have to apply it carefully—the wrong shape will not help your shoulder.
Click here to see an example of how the tape is used and how to put it on your own joint.
Another great option is to work on your more dynamic arm and shoulder muscles with some simple exercises. Theraputty or a soft, plastic substance designed to help you with your finger, hand, and shoulder muscles are great for this, as you can carry it anywhere and use it whenever you need it.
To Recover from an Injury, Dislocation, or Surgery
After a bad fall, an intense surgery, or excessive movement in the shoulder joint, a patient may need help keeping the joint still and free from excessive tendon pulls or shock to this delicate part of the body. A shoulder immobilizer can be a good option, as it is only restrictive to the affected area and can fit any body, no matter the size.
One option is the OmoTrain. This option is a sleek, flat shoulder brace that can go over or under a shirt without a problem. The brace combines a shoulder wrap with a belt, making for a highly versatile brace that protects the joint without locking it into a cast. They sell for about $159, making them an affordable and easy-to-find choice.
For something more severe, you may need an abduction pillow. This piece comes with a unique, square cushion that keeps the arm in place and helps the patient feel more secure as they walk around the house. The arm rests on the pillow which, at the same time, rests against the torso, creating a secure space between body and arm so that nothing gets hit or jiggled. The patient feels less pain this way, and the brace is more supportive.
This abduction pillow has the bonus of a stress ball for the hand to work throughout the day. This pillow helps build up muscles in the hand and arm once again, as well as promotes circulation which the arm will be happy to have as it heals. It’s a bigger, more prominent brace but the extra bulk is there to help and not to hold the patient back.
Some patients may be in a situation that does not allow them to exercise their fingers and which requires that their shoulder be still always. This stillness can be achieved with a special immobilizer that provides the hand with a place to sit and be held in place. At $86 each, they are an accessible option.
A universal shoulder immobilizer can be the perfect brace for these cases. They ensure that very little movement will happen as it’s worn, and it can be adjusted to make it tighter or looser as needed. These braces run a bit cheaper—about $28 each.
Other Shoulder Issues
Chronic swelling, pain, or stiffness may respond to heat or ice, as well as stretching. While patients can use small towels or cloth heated in hot water or the microwave, this can often result in the wrap being far too hot to use—and possibly dangerous.
A good alternative is an electric heating pad like the Qi-Point, which has several heat settings and can be charged and used away from an outlet. The USB adapter allows it to be charged with a computer.
Ice can also be extremely helpful. Patients may want to apply a cold press after therapy, stretching or some shoulder yoga. The cold can help calm the muscle and keep it from swelling again.
- Becky McDowell