Acute Pain? Return to sport? Or somewhere in between? Bracing might be the missing piece!
Like most physiotherapists, I wanted to get into this profession in order to help people. Whether it be to help people achieve new goals, recover from a major injury, or increase their fitness so they can try new things. As a physiotherapist who places a strong emphasis on the importance of exercise and strengthening when it comes to the rehabilitation process, it may come as a surprise that I am here writing about the benefits of bracing. While bracing can sometimes get a bad rap for being the easy way out without the hard work that exercise can entail, I am here to help change that narrative. I have treated countless clients who have found bracing to be a critical part of their recovery and have allowed them to get back to activity much sooner than they would have otherwise. I am going to start by saying that not all braces are created equal; some are used to protect an acute injury, some are used to help relieve stress on a chronically irritated area, and some are used to help facilitate muscle engagement whilst working on increasing muscular strength. So, the question is, how can a brace be helpful for you?
If you have knee osteoarthritis - a custom fit "offloader" brace can help reduce the load through the affected compartment of the knee. This type of brace can help alleviate pain experienced due to osteoarthritis, as well as help slow the progression of your condition. Patients who I have fit with the 'offloader' brace have found they can walk further and with less pain with the extra support the brace provides. Most insurance plans will cover at least part of the cost of this custom brace.
If you have tennis elbow - a simple tennis elbow strap can provide an immediate reduction in pain, and over time will help reduce the stress on the irritated bone and tendon. This is another type of brace that will help decrease pain, but also assist the body in healing the joint by reducing the aggravating stimulus. I often find that patients are able to significantly increase their grip strength and/or reduce pain with gripping, immediately after putting on this brace.
If you have a partial or complete ACL tear, or have had an ACL repair surgery - a custom fit ACL brace can help control the knee in a way which mimics a fully functioning ACL. Like the ‘offloader’ brace for osteoarthritis, this is a custom-fit brace so will be fit to your knee based on measurements taken in the clinic. This is a great option for those hoping to return to sport or activity following an ACL injury - whether you have undergone a surgery or not. Again, often covered by insurance plans.
If you have low back/SI joint pain - a sacroiliac joint belt can be very helpful, especially in the acute or early stages. This belt can help to relieve pain in prolonged sitting, standing or walking, and can also be helpful when returning to higher level activities further down the line. Typically if you find good relief from this brace, it is a good indicator that in order to relieve the pain and irritation through the joint, we just need to build up your muscular strength to mimic the support the brace is providing.
While braces can be an awesome adjunct to your recovery, I wouldn’t be true to myself if I didn’t remind you that working on the appropriate exercises provided by your physiotherapist are no less important. Often bracing can allow us a window of opportunity to work on progressing strengthening, which will provide a long-term solution and (injury-dependent) a graduation from reliance on a brace. That being said, braces are great to keep around if that nagging injury starts to return years down the line, and in some cases (ACL surgery or osteoarthritis, for example) they are great for life!
Check out our Instagram account for a more in-depth video where we outline our custom knee braces, including how we achieve the custom fit, and what they look like once created.
Rebecca Fleming graduated from the University of British Columbia with a Masters degree in Physical Therapy, where she previously received a Bachelors degree in Kinesiology, with a minor in Psychology. Rebecca has also earned her Level 1 Orthopaedic Manual Therapy certification. Rebecca’s treatment approach is focused on movement retraining and exercise prescription, as she is a strong believer in the body’s ability to heal through exercise and movement. She also utilizes a variety of hands-on, manual therapy and soft tissue techniques to facilitate your recovery process. Rebecca is passionate about empowerment through education, and will ensure you walk out of the clinic with an understanding of your injury and rehabilitation process. Rebecca was born and raised in Vancouver, BC, where she grew up playing high-level soccer and softball, as well as dancing competitively. These days, when not in the clinic, you can find her running outdoors, playing tennis, trying a new fitness class, or exploring the beautiful backcountry of Alberta.