Supporting braces and other devices are sometimes used in the treatment of tendonitis. There is also a use for these devices in the prevention of tendonitis. There are different braces for specific parts of the body, most commonly for the ankle, heel, knee, neck, elbow, shoulder and wrist.
When is a tendonitis brace needed?
The most important aspect in the effective treatment of tendonitis is immobilizing the joint to allow for complete rest. This is necessary to prevent any movement that could exacerbate the injury and set back the recovery. Large tendons may heal faster if they have some support.
Some braces are designed to be used in conjunction with the most important treatment method, which is rest. When healing is progressing, a brace can assist in the rehabilitation process by allowing surrounding muscles to be stretched and strengthened without added strain on the joint.
When the brace is inflexible, there can be no movement of the injured joint but it will allow for other movements. For example, a rigid knee brace could still allow the person to move around rather than being confined to bed.
A brace is not a cure for tendonitis, nor is it a treatment method by itself. Wearing a brace so that you can continue to work or exercise, without allowing the tendon time to heal, is a certain recipe for recurring tendonitis and more serious joint problems.
- Ergonomic braces – these are devices that are worn while performing repetitive tasks. They are designed to hold a joint in the correct anatomical position to prevent undue stress to the joint. Typists and computer operators may wear a wrist brace to avoid repetitive strain injury.
- Stabilizing braces – these are designed to be used to provide extra support to a joint following an injury or tendonitis. They help to stabilize the joint by providing moderate support, allowing for some degree of movement but restricting large joint actions.
- Splint braces – these are rigid, non-flexible devices designed to reduce joint movement to almost zero. They are designed to keep the joint in a permanent position to allow healing to take place by restricting any movement.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Tendonitis Braces
While there is a place for tendonitis in the treatment and prevention of the condition, a certain amount of caution does need to be exercised concerning their use.
Scientific evidence on the effectiveness of braces for tendonitis treatment and prevention is still inconclusive. Some studies even show that supports may cause other problems like pinched nerves and interruption to the blood flow to the joint. Some scientists suggest that wearing an ergonomic brace simply transfers the potential problem from the wrist to the elbow.
Off the shelf tendonitis braces are suitable in some cases, especially when they are adjustable or available in varying sizes. These would mainly be wrist, knee and elbow braces and supports. It is important that any brace you wear be correctly fitted otherwise it may not do the job effectively and could cause more problems. It is sometimes necessary to have orthopedic braces custom-made to ensure proper fit and support, which will add to the cost.
While a tendonitis brace may be recommended in many cases, they need to be used as a short-term solution only. Wearing a brace for too long weakens the muscles and tendons and leaves you more prone to injury when it isn’t being worn.
You need to gradually wean yourself off needing the brace for support, by working to strengthen the muscles around the injured joint and stretching to keep the tendons supple and elastic; only wear the brace to offer extra support when needed. A brace can help you return to normal activities sooner but the danger is in coming to rely on it.
Use a tendonitis brace to help the tendon heal and to be able to start gentle exercise again. When you return to work or sport, wear a brace for short while, but just until you are certain that the joint is strong enough to cope on its own.