An ankle brace is a device which provides support to the ankle. Braces may be prescribed by a physician, recommended by a physical therapist, or worn independently by someone who believes that his or her ankle could benefit from more support. There are a number of different types of ankle brace available, with some being sold only through the offices of doctors to ensure that patients will understand how to wear them correctly. Many drug stores carry basic braces which can be used for ankle support, including things like bandaging for the ankle.
Ankle braces are worn in a variety of settings. A sprained or strained ankle can benefit from bracing to immobilize and stabilize the ankle while it is healing, with the goal being the prevention of further injury with the use of bracing. In this case, the patient is usually advised to avoid walking in the early stages of healing, and then to transition to walking with an ankle brace to avoid putting stress on the ankle.
Bracing can also be used as part of an orthopedic corrective program. Someone with excessive pronation or supination which causes the ankle to turn in or out may wear a brace to support the ankle and prevent ankle pronation or supination. Bracing may also be used to support an ankle after surgery to fix a fracture, congenital abnormality, or problem such as a ruptured tendon. In this case, the bracing relieves strain on the ankle to prevent additional injury.
Physical therapists may propose an ankle brace if they feel that a client is experiencing ankle instability. In this case, the brace provides support between sessions until the joint is strong enough for the patient to be able to walk without bracing. Bracing can also be used to stabilize an ankle while a patient waits for surgery, keeping pain down and reducing the risk that the patient's ankle will become even more injured during the wait.
When an ankle brace is fitted, care needs to be taken to ensure that it fits snugly, but not too tightly, and to avoid chafing and other common problems. A doctor can do this with a highly adjustable brace which can be custom-fitted to the patient's ankle, as can a physical therapist. People bracing their own ankles should take care that the brace fits evenly without creating hot spots or painful areas, and if the ankle appears swollen, hot, tender, or red after bracing, it is a sign that there is a problem with the brace.