Photo: Shutterstock.

Oh no. It’s happened again. That painful little twitch in your knee has returned. Naturally you want to help the healing process along, but where do you start? While nobody likes to think about getting an injury, it’s comforting to know there are a growing number of options to help you recover quickly and comfortably. Two of the most popular healing aids are braces and supports. They both come in a variety of shapes and sizes and are readily available in health-care stores and pharmacies.

Braces versus supports
According to Kerri Trudeau, a customer service representative with Wellwise by Shoppers Drug Mart who has been fitting supports and braces for nearly a decade, one of the most important things to understand is that braces and supports are actually two very distinct healing aids.

“I think there’s a misconception when it comes to bracing and support. People often think they need a brace with all the bells and whistles when they just need a simple support.”

“I think there’s a misconception when it comes to bracing and support. People often think they need a brace with all the bells and whistles when they just need a simple support. A support is different than a brace because it’s not really designed to provide stability or strictly limit movement. Bracing, however, is useful for adding stability when you’re addressing injuries and they are a good adjunct treatment plan for something like physiotherapy. For example, if you’ve got a torn ACL [anterior cruciate ligament], then a knee brace would be an appropriate option.”

While there are always exceptions, in general, a good rule of thumb is that braces should be used to immobilize and stabilize an area after an injury. Made from a variety of substances like neoprene, plastic, metal and ceramic fibre, they help promote recovery by limiting the range of movement of a joint like a knee.

Braces and supports serve different purposes. Which one do you need? Photo: Shutterstock.

On the other hand, supports (like Tensor wraps or compression sleeves) are useful when it comes to preventing an injury. They may also help alleviate pain by providing heat or compression, both of which promote blood circulation. Like braces, they are available for an array of body parts and joints, including knees, ankles, wrists and elbows.

The right fit
Whether you’re in the market for a brace or a support, Trudeau says it’s advisable to come into a store to get an assessment of your needs to ensure you’re using the proper aid for your specific issue.

“We often have people come in to buy a support or a brace for someone else. That’s just not a good idea. For example, Mr. Smith will come in and say he wants a brace for Mrs. Smith. I will say, ‘Okay, what’s the injury?’ Well, even if he knows his wife has a torn ACL, he often doesn’t know if it’s a medial or lateral tear and often these kinds of braces have a bar or hinge. People need to try these things on because the bar may rub where the pain is. I always encourage people to come in. We will measure the specific body part and get the right measurements to determine size. We try it on, we make sure it fits properly, and in the end, that’s what helps you heal faster.”

Braces and supports can help joints heal more quickly so you can resume an active lifestyle. Photo: Flickr/Creative Commons, Sangudo.

Fitted favourites
In terms of support devices, Trudeau has a clear favourite: Therall. “Therall is a sleeve that you can use for ankles, wrists, elbows and often knees. I probably sell more of them than anything else for a couple of reasons. First, it doesn’t have the opening for the knee, so it just lays nice and flat over the front of your knee and it’s very comfortable. Secondly, it’s made with a ceramic fibre.”

Ceramic fibre insulates the joint and retains heat, slowly reflecting it back into the joint and surrounding tissues for soothing penetrating relief from arthritis, as well as other types of aches and pains.

Trudeau also likes supports and braces from the DJO and the OTC line. “DJO has a new knitted knee sleeve called a Stabilax that has removable hinges, so the sleeve can be used through all stages of the rehab process. I also like the OTC line of Night Splints. They are very easy to wear for people who have carpal tunnel syndrome or arthritis. They keep the wrist in a neutral position while you sleep, which allows the wrist to rest and heal naturally.”

With so many options available, there’s no need to suffer with aches and joint pain. Tap into support devices to aid with your healing.