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How Do I Choose the Best Shoulder Support Brace?

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  • Written By: Kaci Lane Hindman
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 31 March 2014
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When choosing a shoulder support brace, consider the amount of support desired and the type of shoulder injury the brace will support. The support level of a shoulder support brace should mainly depend on the injured person's level of mobility and daily tasks during the injury. It is equally important to assess the nature of the injury. Whether the injury occurred due to bad posture, a hurt joint or rotator cuff, or a condition like arthritis should be considered.

Basic support level braces are normally smaller and made out of a stretch fabric. These braces are good for wearing during a normal work day or when sleeping since they are more comfortable than those designed for extra support. Some have a strap that crosses the chest to hold the brace in place; while this is helpful, it might be uncomfortable on women. Many shoulder support braces are made from neoprene, which makes most people sweat. This might not be the best choice of material for wearing a brace all day.

Moderate support shoulder braces usually cover more of the shoulder and stretch less. This level of support often works great for athletes. It offers more support than a basic brace, but still allows for an ample amount of movement. Some types of moderate shoulder support brace have built-in heat therapy, or gel packs that can be inserted for either heat or cold treatment.

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High support braces should only be used during recovery from a serious injury in which the shoulder needs to be immobilized. These braces are designed to hold the shoulder in one place to help correct an injury. When worn, the shoulder cannot be used for any type of activity, including everyday tasks.

Posture-related injuries occur mainly from sitting or standing incorrectly over long periods of time. While physical therapy is often the best cure, a posture corrective brace can help in the short term. A posture shoulder support brace is sometimes made with stretch elastic. Less expensive braces are usually more uncomfortable; those with proper padding and wider straps often provide more comfort and support.

If the problem is a joint or rotator cuff injury, look for a shoulder support brace that holds the joint in place. The placement of straps and correct fitting is important as always. With this type of injury, the focus tends to move more toward the extent of the injury and pain. Consider how much mobility is needed in order for the injury to heal. The more severe the injury, the less mobility and more support are needed in a shoulder support brace.

Athletes and older adults alike often suffer from arthritis or "frozen shoulder," where the shoulder may feel stiff after periods of inactivity. Shoulder support braces that incorporate heat therapy help the most in this case because they help improve blood flow. Since the goal is to help the joint loosen up, a brace with basic or moderate support is the best choice.

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