Shoulder Bracing

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Shoulder bracing isn’t something you get excited about searching for on the internet. That means, unless you’re a physiotherapist, you’re probably here because you have shoulder pain that is impacting your quality of life, and you need answers now.

Shoulder pain makes it difficult to do even the most basic tasks of life, such as driving, carrying groceries, picking up a child or grandchild, dressing yourself, and even sleeping. If we say that another way, shoulder pain can cause you to need help getting dressed, taking showers, driving, and caring for your basic needs. 

In other words – it takes away your freedom and independence.

And while shoulder bracing alone won’t usually solve the problem, it can be an extremely effective tool when used in conjunction with exercises and other strategies you’ll learn in physiotherapy. 

In this detailed guide, we’ll look at the causes of shoulder pain, who is most at risk, what you can do on your own and with help from a physiotherapist, how shoulder bracing can help, and which shoulder braces are best for different conditions.

The Ultimate Guide to Shoulder Bracing

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The Ultimate Guide to Shoulder Bracing

What Does It Mean When Your Shoulder Hurts?

If you are feeling pain, stiffness, or a limited range of motion in your shoulder, you know it immediately. Something isn’t right, and it’s affecting your quality of life in very basic ways. What to do about it depends on the cause. Here are some of the most common causes of a painful shoulder.

Frozen Shoulder

Also known as adhesive capsulitis, the symptoms of frozen shoulder are pain and stiffness within the joint. It is especially common after a stroke and after certain surgical procedures such as a mastectomy. Any condition that affects your shoulder’s ability to move properly can result in frozen shoulder.

Remember the capsule mentioned earlier? This capsule surrounds your shoulder bones, tendons, and ligaments. With frozen shoulder, the capsule gets tighter and thicker, inhibiting movement. Over time, it gets worse. And it can last for months. Many people with frozen shoulder experience it the worst at night when they’re trying to sleep.

Shoulder pain treatments for this condition can include exercises, manual therapy with help from your physiotherapist, acupuncture, and moist heat. 

Shoulder Inflammation and Impingement

Inflammation can be caused by shoulder tendonitis or bursitis. These are two variations of the same condition, just in different places of soft tissue – the tendons and the bursa. Shoulder impingement syndrome happens when your tendons get pinched between the humerus and the shoulder blade bones. 

Often, impingement occurs as a result of inflammation from tendonitis or bursitis, which is why we’re including all three of these as one cause of shoulder pain.

It’s not always the case, but it is often true that these conditions result from some other type of injury to your shoulder. 

Shoulder impingement symptoms will include a loss of strength and reduced range of motion. You’ll feel stiffness when you raise and lower your arm. You may feel sudden pain when trying to lift something. And you’ll feel pain when reaching, especially overhead. It will also affect your ability to sleep.

For inflammation and shoulder impingement relief, you can use the same shoulder pain treatments as with frozen shoulder.

Rotator Cuff and Shoulder Tendon Tears

When your rotator cuff tears, you will feel it immediately. Many people feel a snapping sensation when the injury happens, or a ‘crackling’ feeling when they move their shoulder in certain ways. 

If the shoulder tendon has torn, that means your tendon is no longer fully attached to the bone. A tendon tear can be a partial tear or a complete tear. Obviously, a complete tear is worse. 

With a torn rotator cuff or shoulder tendon, you will feel pain just trying to lie in bed at night, especially if you lie on the injured shoulder. You’ll feel pain anytime you lift or lower your arm. 

A tear can be caused by several things, beginning with repetitive high stress motions such as those in certain sports and in particular manual labor jobs like painting, because so much of the work is done overhead. 

Other tears are caused by age, as the joint’s various parts degenerate, and reduced blood flow makes it harder for it to heal itself. Bone spurs in the shoulder joint can also cause the tendon to tear if the tendon rubs against the bone spur, especially when lifting. This is another form of shoulder impingement.

You can also tear your rotator cuff or shoulder tendon if you break your collarbone or dislocate your shoulder. It can even happen just by lifting something heavy too fast, or falling on your arm in the wrong way. These would be acute tears, as opposed to degenerative tears that happen over time.

Treatment for shoulder pain caused by tears depends on the nature of the tear.

For a partial tear, your body will eventually heal itself. Using a shoulder brace for rotator cuff injuries will accelerate your healing, but you can also use the other treatment methods listed earlier, and physiotherapy of shoulder pain can play a helpful role in accelerating the proper healing of your joint and muscles.

With a full tear, in most cases this requires surgery first, followed by a recovery process with help from a physiotherapist, which will be aided by shoulder bracing, which we’ll discuss in detail next.

Learn more about shoulder injuries, causes, and treatments

Check out this post from BeActive Physiotherapy about rotator cuff injury (Read the caption):

What Is Shoulder Bracing? And Does It Help?

Bracing provides shoulder support for a variety of injuries and conditions. There are many types of shoulder braces, ranging from shoulder immobilizers that greatly restrict motion, to shoulder stabilizers that allow for continued movement, but with more support.

For instance, if you’ve had surgery, you will need a more restrictive shoulder immobilizer, which will function sort of like a cast for a broken arm. It keeps your shoulder in the same position. Your shoulder needs maximum support while it heals from this type of injury. You will need a certain amount of healing to take place before you can do any exercises to rebuild your strength and range of motion.

For less severe injuries, supportive shoulder bracing like a compression sleeve helps reduce pain but allows for ongoing movement. This will allow you to continue performing essential tasks such as brushing your hair, reaching behind you, working overhead, bathing, and sleeping, but with less pain.

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Find out whether physiotherapy can help you get back to doing the things you love in life. 

How Does Shoulder Bracing Help with Shoulder Pain?

Do shoulder braces work? Yes, because the worst possible outcome after a shoulder injury is that it doesn’t heal properly. If that happens, you may have pain or reduced range of motion for the rest of your life. Or, you might need additional surgery or other treatments to remedy the problem.

Proper healing is your top priority. 

A shoulder brace compresses the joint and reduces inflammation. If you have shoulder tendonitis or bursitis, or shoulder impingement syndrome, the brace will enable you to more easily work through the pain and continue performing essential tasks. 

Shoulder braces also reduce instability in your shoulder, which allows for optimized healing. And, the braces keep your shoulder elevated, which facilitates faster healing through improved blood flow. 

Some shoulder braces have a hot and cold feature that lets you raise and lower the temperature around your shoulder. This gives you more freedom to manage your pain. 

And, if your shoulder injury is caused by poor posture, such as how you sit or how you lift things, you can get posture correcting shoulder braces.

Which shoulder brace is right for you?

Always, always, always talk with a doctor or a physiotherapist before using a shoulder brace. There are specific braces designed for specific conditions. Using the wrong one will either achieve nothing, or will make your injury heal incorrectly. Or, it will just be really uncomfortable.

Common Injuries Successfully Treated with Shoulder Braces

We’ve touched on a number of these already, but here is a more complete list of shoulder problems that you can help treat with a shoulder brace:

Now, let’s look at the three main types of shoulder braces, and then some specific models.

What Are the Best Shoulder Braces for Pain?

You’re looking for four primary features for whatever shoulder brace you end up using.

  1. Provides shoulder support for your type of injury or condition
  2. Comfortable and as discreet as possible
  3. Made of quality materials with sturdy straps
  4. Straps placed in the right spots
 

Here are ten good shoulder braces. 

The first four are shoulder immobilizers, ideal for severe shoulder injuries like torn rotator cuffs and broken bones, post-surgery recovery, and other conditions discussed earlier.

The next five are shoulder stabilizers, ideal for conditions like tendonitis, shoulder impingement, and partial tears. The last shoulder brace is a posture correcting brace.

Whichever shoulder brace you think looks right for you, be sure and speak with a doctor or physiotherapist first. Not only will they have very specific recommendations on which ones will work for you, but they can show you how to adjust it to your body, how to take it on and off, and other helpful suggestions.

We must also state that we are not in business with any of these brands, make no money off of them, and do not explicitly ‘endorse’ any of them. The physiotherapists in our network have extensive experience treating shoulder pain and these are some of the brands they have used successfully.

Check out this video from Strive Health and Performance and try shoulder scaption exercise:

Donjoy UltraSling III

This is an easily customizable shoulder immobilizer for rotator cuff injuries, shoulder dislocation, and post-surgery recovery. It comes in several sizes and will give your shoulder the stability it needs to heal properly and comfortably. 

It includes moisture wicking mesh fabric, and allows your arm to be positioned in a variety of ways depending on your doctor’s recommendations for your injury.

See the Donjoy shoulder brace

 

Aircast Arm Immobilizer

For slightly less serious injuries that still require immobilization such as light fractures and dislocations, this option includes shoulder, back, and upper arm straps that can be easily customized to fit your body. 

The Aircast is also made of breathable mesh fabric, and has a nice array of 5-star shoulder brace reviews here.

 

Shoulder Abduction with Pillow Brace

This shoulder brace from Ortho Depot is a much more affordable choice that also works well for post-surgery healing and recovery. It comes with a pillow that helps hold your shoulder up, which makes it more comfortable to wear.

It has mostly good reviews, but one thing you’ll notice if you read shoulder brace reviews about this brace is that most of the bad reviews come from people who ordered it and started using it without consulting with a doctor or physiotherapist. This is why we keep saying – work with a doctor to find the best brace for you. Or, if you order one on your own, take it in and get help learning how to put it on and fit it properly.

See the Shoulder Abduction Brace

 

Custom SLR Ergonomic Arm Sling

Also more affordable than the first two, this shoulder immobilizer comes with ‘split strap’ technology, which helps to reduce fatigue by distributing the weight of your arm more evenly.

Its ergonomic design makes it very comfortable, and it comes with an adjustable length. Like most shoulder braces, it can be adjusted to fit either arm.

See the Custom SLR brace

Vive Universal Shoulder Brace

Designed for shoulder pain such as, strains, tendonitis, and bursitis, this shoulder brace is easy to use, affordable, and can be adjusted for different levels of compression. It is made of extra strength neoprene, which provides greater stability. It’s also machine washable.

Learn more about the Vive shoulder brace

 

Babo Care Shoulder Stability Brace

This shoulder brace includes a pressure pad that can be used to apply ice or heat. Also made of breathable neoprene, you will feel more comfortable wearing this as you rein in the symptoms of whatever is causing your shoulder pain.

See the Babo Care brace

 

NatraCure Hot/Cold & Compression Shoulder Support

This brace includes an actual heat and ice pack, unlike the previous one, and it also comes with an air compressor you can use to adjust the amount of pressure the brace puts on your shoulder. 

This is an excellent choice if you have ongoing pain but need to keep moving and want to be able to adjust it throughout the day.

See the NatraCure brace

 

EVS Sports Shoulder Brace

Designed to give strong shoulder support during exercise and other strenuous activity, this shoulder brace fits many different sizes and is easy to put on and take off by yourself. 

It fits well and stays in place, with no underarm chaffing. 

See the EVS sports brace

 

FightTech Shoulder Brace

It doesn’t have as many sizing options, but its universal design allows it to easily fit on either shoulder. You can sleep with this shoulder brace on very comfortably, and it will provide the shoulder pain relief you need. 

See the FightTech shoulder brace

ComfyMed Posture Corrector

Lastly, to help prevent pain from bad posture and to correct the way your shoulders are situated, this is a terrific option because it is easy to take on and off and fits chest sizes from 29 to 40 inches.

See more about the ComfyMed Posture Corrector

No matter which shoulder brace you end up choosing, take some time to read the shoulder brace reviews before finalizing your choice. As you can see, there are a lot of choices (perhaps too many!). But you want to get the right one, and no shoulder brace probably works best for everyone who gets it because our bodies are different, and the specific causes of shoulder pain are different.

And, one more time, you should also consult with your doctor or physiotherapist in choosing the best shoulder brace for your injury. 

Find out more about these shoulder braces

5 Shoulder Strengthening Exercises for Shoulder Pain

The three simple steps above are very basic. But if that is all you can do because of the pain and limits to your range of motion, then start there. 

If you’re ready for some more strenuous exercises for shoulder pain, here are five to get you started. 

However, please keep in mind that not all shoulder exercises are appropriate for all conditions. All of this is best done with the help of a physiotherapist, who will know the exact best exercises that your injury will benefit from the most, and they can show you how to do them safely and correctly.

Perform all of these shoulder exercises carefully and slowly, and stop if you experience shoulder pain. 

Wall Crawl

Face the wall and slowly walk your fingers up and down the wall, and from side to side. Cover as much of the wall as possible without moving from your standing position. Do this for about one minute.

Shoulder Pendulum Seesaw

Find a chair or something to hold on to while you stand. Lean over, and allow the injured shoulder arm to hang straight down. Sway your body to gently get your arm to move. You want it to move in all directions, back and forth, side to side, and in a circular motion both clockwise and counterclockwise. 

Do this for 1-2 minutes, three times per day.

These next three exercises for shoulder pain require flexible tubing that ideally includes a handle.

Horizontal Rows

Anchor the tubing to a doorknob or something similar and hold it by the handle, with your arm extended out in front of you, facing whatever the tubing is attached to. Then, pull back slowly until your elbow is against your side. 

Hold that for 3-5 seconds, and return to the starting position. Repeat several times.

Diagonal Pull

For this, you’ll be pulling the tubing across your body in a downward direction.

Anchor the tubing to the top of a door or something similar. Grab the handle so that your thumb faces up and your arm is straight. Your arm should be facing up, away from your body.

Your injured shoulder should be facing the door. Start there, and pull your arm inward and down. Your hand will rotate as it crosses your body. Hold that for 3-5 seconds and return. Repeat 10-15 times, and do this three times per day.

Shoulder Flexion

For this one, you anchor the tubing under your own feet. Hold the tubing along your side, and raise your arm up and out until it is directly out in front of you, at shoulder level. Hold that for 3-5 seconds, and return. Repeat this ten times, and do this three times per day.

See 16 shoulder exercises like these

Frequently Asked Questions

First, the physical therapist will examine your shoulder injury to figure out the best type of brace for your situation. Then, they will determine the fit using special measurement tools along with trying out a few different sizes. They will also provide instructions for how to use your brace at home.

Depending on the shoulder brace and your specific injury, many times the brace is covered by insurance. Also, if you have a health spending account you can use that to pay for specific medical devices. This usually includes shoulder braces.

Sometimes, yes, shoulder bracing can be helpful with pain and you might find quick relief. However, it is recommended to use a shoulder brace along with shoulder physiotherapy. This combination of bracing with rehab will make your shoulder pain treatment more effective, and your recovery should be faster.

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IMS treatment is one of several possible methods for relieving pain that do not rely on prescription medications and all the side effects and baggage they come with. Not to mention that most drugs can only mask pain, but rarely address root causes. Find a clinic if you are suffering from muscle tightness, soreness, or pain to improve your quality of life, today.