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Stop Relying on Your Old Supports/Braces!

June 6, 2018

One of the most common comments we hear in physical therapy and in the fitness center is…

”You know….I do have a few knee braces in my closet….maybe I should wear those again” (Or back brace, ankle brace, elbow brace, etc.). 

Unfortunately, many people believe that once an injured joint, muscle, tendon or ligament, always an injured body part. That is not always the case! This kind of thinking causes people to keep their braces safely tucked away, just in case they might need them in the future. Although we do have some people that might need to go back to their old supports for specific activities, it should really be limited. The goal is to heal completely and properly and retire your support/brace. But when do we know when the time is right?
Here are some general guidelines for when it comes to using support devices:

Post Surgery

If you had a surgery to correct a mechanical problem and that surgery really did correct that issue, like an ACL reconstruction, or a spine fusion, you will usually graduate to the next phase of healing. The next chapter is usually the use of a support/brace for a specified period of time. Following that you will start retraining the muscles to support that area correctly. Once that has occurred, it would be no longer be necessary to use that support or brace. The retraining of the muscles supporting the area is as important as the surgery in making sure that you get long-term relief and you cannot properly do that if you are consistently relying on a brace. If you are still experiencing trouble with the affected area, you should contact your medical professional or physical therapist to understand more clearly why your body is failing to fully recover properly. Relying on a brace can cause long-term problems if your muscles are not retrained.

Post Therapy

There are many kinds of injuries that might require a support or brace for recovery and can be common, especially for high impact careers and athletes. This can include but is not limited to a blown out knee, ligament damage, fractures, and torn muscles. If you had a non-surgical injury, then the same pathway is generally followed as with a postoperative status. There may be some kind of brace or support, followed by rehab to help the body recover strength, balance, and endurance. At this point in your recovery process, it is vital to use the brace prescribed so you can retrain your muscles affected. But be sure to only rely on the brace for as long as prescribed by your If the area of concern is deemed to be permanently unstable, then a brace may be appropriate at certain times. Your rehab specialist will help you make this determination and will instruct you on how and when to rely on the brace.

On-going Pain

Do you suffer from on-going pain after a surgery or injury? If you are reaching for your braces and supports anytime you even consider activity or feel pain, perhaps the issue was never fully resolved. Have you seen a professional about it lately? There have been significant advances in surgery and physical therapy and your issue may be one that can now be addressed more easily than it once might have been. Remember that oftentimes, chronic issues can cause secondary concerns or overcompensation that can actually be worse than the original injury. This can happen because the patient may have chosen to just deal with the injury or suffer through it instead of fixing it properly by engaging the help of a medical professional. Once the mechanical fault has been addressed (and this does not always involve surgery), rehab or physical therapy will help ensure a complete return to a normal lifestyle. 

Here are three things you should remember when recovering from an injury:

  1. Be careful to not have too much impact on your injury. If you have on-going knee pain, it might benefit for you to alternate exercise to something that has less impact on your knee. Talk to your rehab specialist to discuss equivalent activities that you can participate in. Instead of running, you might switch to something that isn’t as hard on your knees, such as swimming.
  1. Don’t rest too much. Although your doctor might recommend down time, you will also need to restore and rehabilitate the injured muscles eventually. A lack of activity can cause weight gain, stiffness, or a lack of adequate healing. This can cause your recovery time to increase even more. It is important to follow directions provided by your  physical therapist as they might provide you with specific stretches that are directly associated to your injury. Make sure to talk to your doctor about which activities you can start out with that are low impact before you graduate to your regular exercise regimen. Another issue that is commonly related is weight gain associated with down time. Weight gain can affect your injury too and it is vital that you get back to your regular exercise schedule as quickly as possible to minimize that happening.
  1. Wear the right shoes. Be sure to understand what shoes and inserts are the best option for you based on your injury, body type, and shape of foot. If you have high arches, you need a shoe with stronger support. There are a multitude of options available for you to choose from when it comes to shoes. You can even consider getting custom inserts made that are perfectly formed to your feet for the ultimate support.
Give those braces away, and make more room in that closet for hiking boots, skis and biking shoes. Life is short…and time is precious.  Worry about whether or not you still fit into your uniform, and not whether or not you still fit into your brace.

If you have any questions about whether or not you should be using an old brace, please contact Body Image Physical Therapy & Fitness Center to schedule an appointment or get more information at 720-870-8900! We are more than happy to help you be on your way to a full recovery.