Wrist Brace

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Elderly woman being fitted with a wrist brace by a healthcare professional

Types Of Wrist Brace And How They Work

Wrist braces generally fall into two categories – wrist splints and wrist supports. In choosing a wrist brace to treat your wrist pain, it is important to understand the differences between these two categories and in how they work to treat a wrist injury.

Wrist Splints

A wrist splint is usually a rigid brace that includes a stay or splint to keep your wrists in a straight position.

This type of wrist brace is usually intended for treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome, a disease in which the carpal tunnel running through your wrist gradually narrows and eventually makes it painful and difficult to straighten your wrists upon awakening in the morning. To reduce this problem, your doctor will prescribe you a wrist sprint to wear during sleep. It will counter the widespread tendency we have to bend our wrists while sleeping. Upon awakening with a straight wrist, we will experience less pain from carpal tunnel syndrome.

Wrist splints can also be effective in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. In fact, a study by the American College of Rheumatology found significant reductions in pain, swelling and joint fluid among rheumatoid and psoriatic arthritis patients after just 3 weeks of wearing a wrist splint. Significant increases in wrist motion were also found after just 1 week of wrist splint use.

Other blinded, controlled studies have reported positive effects on joint swelling with no negative impacts on grip strength and hand function.

Although these braces are useful when worn at night, they are generally too restrictive to be worn throughout the day. They interfere with the range of motion of the wrist to the point that many of us will find it difficult to maintain our normal range of duties at home or work. Functions that require even moderately bending our wrists will become too difficult.

Because of these restrictions, you should wear a wrist splint mainly to treat carpal tunnel or rheumatoid arthritis. If you suffer from other mild to moderate wrist injuries such as sprains, a wrist support (discussed below) is a more appropriate choice.

Wrist Supports

The second category of wrist brace is the wrist support. These braces are less restrictive and allow you to preserve much of your normal range of motion. In general, a wrist support will not possess a rigid spoon or stay that makes it difficult to bend your wrists. They will however provide mild to moderate support for your wrist ligaments.

This makes wrist supports a good choice for someone who has suffered a mild to moderate wrist sprain or who suffers from mild wrist instability. They will support the wrist ligaments and reduce the risk that everyday use of your hand may reinjure them.

To ensure you get the most benefit from your wrist brace, you should wear it as much as possible, whether at day or night.

Hybrid Wrist Braces

We should note that, for most wrist splints, the rigid spoon or stay is removable. This makes the splint appropriate for use both when sleeping (with the spoon/stay inserted) and during waking hours (with the spoon/stay removed).

Sizing Your Wrist Brace

You should also follow the fitting instructions carefully to ensure you get the correct size of wrist brace for your needs. Sizing is very important to allow the wrist support to do its job properly.

If your brace  is too large it will not be able to offer the support your wrist needs. On the other hand, a wrist support that is too small will be uncomfortable to wear. You may end up not wearing it enough (or even at all) with negative results.

User Comfort

The best wrist braces can be worn with complete comfort with regular clothing. More importantly, you will also be able to wear them to bed without any interruption to a good night’s sleep.These features will make it easy to wear the brace when you need to do so. The resulting higher patient compliance will make for a higher likelihood of a favorable treatment outcome.

To achieve these benefits, look for braces that are breathable and that allow your wrist and hand to maintain normal body temperature while being worn. If you have a neoprene allergy, your brace should preferably be made from a material that will not provoke a negative reaction.

Care & Maintenance Of Your Wrist Brace

You should also make sure that you acquaint yourself with the manufacturer’s instructions for the cleaning and maintenance of your wrist brace. For example, many of these products are not intended for machine washing or drying, but should be hand washed and air dried. To be sure your brace continues to perform as intended, you should follow the instructions provided. If in doubt about how to care for your particular wrist brace model, contact our customer service associates for guidance.


In closing, we would like to caution you not to fall into a trap that affects many other wrist brace wearers – that of wearing your brace only during periods of wrist pain, swelling  or discomfort. Some other patients also stop wearing the brace as soon as their symptoms disappear and are subsequently disappointed when those symptoms later return.

It is important to wear your brace for the entire period recommended by your healthcare advisors and during the times (e.g. bedtime) he or she has indicated. Failing to do so may place an unnecessary obstacle in the path of your successful recovery.

Used correctly, your wrist brace can prove to be the ideal drug and side effect free alternative treatment for your wrist pain.

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