Lately, I’ve been getting lots of questions referring to the chiropractic opinion on braces. Knee braces, ankle braces, back braces, etc. Where should I get them? When should I wear them, etc. Well, today I hope to let you know how we’re starting to stay away from braces, and why you should consider doing so as well.
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Now when I play ice hockey, I do wear a knee brace. I have a left kneecap that can dislocate and I need the added stability in my knee to make sure it doesn’t pop out. Hockey is an unpredictable sport so I wear it. When I exercise, I do not. Exercise is a much more controllable environment.
Braces are a crutch. They provide increased pressure in whatever joint or body region that they are used on. This provides more stability to the area. Therefore the person wearing the brace feels more confident and secure in their body movement and feel less apt to get injured.
IT MAKES YOUR CORE WEAKER –
While a brace does cause increased stability, we begin to rely too much on the brace. It’s the definition of a ‘crutch’. Take the example of the lower back brace. This guy is no longer going to rely on his own abdominal and core musculature to increase the pressure to his lumbar spine (the increased pressure is what gives us stability). The more he wears the belt the more his core will go to sleep. This is even more, the case if you only wear it during exercise. When you have the highest demands on your core and abdominal you would be allowing them to take a break. I wouldn’t recommend it. I understand if you are going for a world record or a one repetition max. I don’t condone regular use, however. This example applies throughout the body.
IT CHEWS UP THE SURROUNDING JOINTS –
The example I always like to use is the ankle. Ankle bracing and ankle taping is a very common practice. Here’s the problem. The ankle is the main ‘shock absorber’ of the lower body during any movement. You want to have as much dorsiflexion/plantar flexion (lifting your toes to the sky/pointing your toes towards the ground) as you can. The less range of motion you have in that plane, the more stress you are going to put on your knees, the arch of your foot, etc. Therefore a practice like bracing/taping would actually limit the range of motion in the affected joint and lead to increased stress on surrounding joints. I realize that historically we’ve used braces as prevention for injury/re-injury, but these days we’re going against that argument.