There is no such thing as one-size-fits-all when it comes to guiding an individual through the injury recovery process, especially when it comes to the wrist. What may work for one person and his/her wrist injury may not be as effective on another person with the same or a similar wrist injury. Educating yourself and your patient on the benefits and risks of wearing a wrist brace is an important step to establishing whether these orthopedic supports are helping or harming.
Below we examine a few of the benefits and risks of wrist braces of which patients should be aware in order to make injury recovery a faster, more effective process.
Benefits Of Wearing A Wrist Brace
Wrist braces offer many benefits to the wearer and can help patients recover from an injury or improve their quality of life if they suffer a chronic condition such as arthritis. Patients should be fully aware of these benefits and how wrist braces work to help them recover.
There is a wide variety of wrist braces for a wide variety of injuries and ailments. However, most orthopedic supports for the wrist address injuries in a few key ways. Wrist braces help stabilize the joint, ensuring there is no excessive movement relative to the surrounding structures. This allows the patient to function and complete daily tasks without interference with the healing process.
Immobilizing the wrist with a brace also allows helps to reduce swelling and pain from inflammation.
Post Surgical Healing
Patients who have undergone wrist surgery may wear a wrist brace to protect the surgical site and allow more rapid healing.
Fewer Restrictions On Daily Activities
It’s important to stress to patients that a wrist brace will offer one of the most flexible wearing experiences of any orthopedic brace. Many patients are anxious that orthopedic supports will hinder their daily activity and will shy away from proper use or even avoid wearing a brace altogether.
Certain wrist braces allow movement of the finger and thumb joints, enabling the wearer to perform regular activities. People often use them for activities that place greater demands on the wrist and hands. These braces can also improve sleep by protecting and immobilizing the joint with a subsequent decrease in pain.
In fact, one recent study published by the journal of the American College of Rheumatology found that patients who wear working wrist braces as much as possible during the day for four weeks had a significant (32%) decrease in wrist pain and a small (5%) increase in grip strength.
Risks Of Wearing A Wrist Brace
There is a variety of reasons for patients to consider a wrist brace when recovering from an injury or managing a chronic condition like carpal tunnel syndrome. However, there are also some risks of wearing a wrist brace of which the patient should be aware. It’s important that physiotherapists and sports medicine professionals not only understand these often nuanced risks, but that they properly convey them to their patients. Many of these dangers pertain to wearing habits and the need to communicate the proper use of the brace.
Failure To Wear The Brace
One risk of prescribing a wrist brace for a sprained wrist, arthritis or any other problem is that the patient will simply not wear the orthopedic support, thus hindering the healing process. There are many reasons individuals may not wear a wrist brace, but it often due to the level of discomfort many people feel when wearing them. Braces may make some activities more difficult and hard splints in particular may cause active resistance to wearing the recovery aid.
One way to counter this possibility is to ensure the wrist brace is fitted correctly so that it does not rub, strain, pinch or squeeze the area. This goes for the hand and arm as well as the wrist. Communicate thoroughly with patients to ensure they are comfortable and follow up with them to ensure nothing has changed in the proceeding days and weeks. If there is discomfort, work with your patient to target the source and come up with a solution, such as extra padding around bony areas or a different type of brace.
The material of which the brace is made can be an important factor influencing patient compliance. Supports that are non hypoallergenic or latex or neoprene free may yield significant benefits if the patient has a neoprene allergy or other similar condition.
Wearing The Brace Only During Periods Of Discomfort
Another of the common risks of wearing a wrist brace is the tendency for some patients to limit its use to only short periods of acute swelling, tingling or pain. At other times, the individual may stop wearing the support. Ultimately, he or she may then abandon the brace too early and put an obstacle in the way of recovery.
It’s important to stress that in this scenario, physiotherapists and sports medicine professionals must be vigilant, both in communicating to their patients the importance of letting the brace run its course and following up to ensure the patient is using the brace correctly and for the prescribed period of time. It helps to talk to the patient and determine several goals and benchmarks with them regarding the wearing of the brace. Patients may find that weekly progress reports and clear communication of times when their brace may not be needed (e.g. at night or during rest) are helpful. This helps the patient to focus on not just the outward physical symptoms, but also all the other elements that go into a successful recovery.