Why Bracing Doesn’t Work

Ankle braces, back braces, elbow braces, wrist braces. Need I say more? Throughout our clinics, we see a LOT of them. And, I’m sure you see them everywhere you go as well.

They’re at the gym. Your co-worker is wearing one. You’ve noticed them on folks walking down the street. We are surrounded by them. And, why wouldn’t we be, when we have them for basically every joint in the body?

Most folks are told, either by their health practitioner or the TV commercial they watched, that their sore, aching joints need to be braced. They need stability. They’re weak and can’t do their intended job on their own.

But is that true? Is the body really that weak?

The short answer? No, it’s not.

Our joints are incredibly stable, incredibly functional. Our joints allow us to run, jump, and climb, cut left and right, and stand up out of a chair. They aren’t “fragile,” far from it actually, even though we’ve been led to believe they are.

However, when we brace a joint, when we offer outside assistance, we provide artificial (and only temporary) help. It’s the same thing that happens when you break your leg and get a cast put on. With a broken leg, obviously that bone needs outside help. It can’t stabilize on its own. In a situation like that, the cast is necessary. But think about what has happened to the muscle when you take the cast off. Your muscles have atrophied. They haven’t had to work for the six to eight weeks that the cast has been on, because the cast was doing the work!

The same thing happens when you wear your brace. The brace is doing the work, rather than the muscles that are surrounding the joint. So, when you take your brace off, you’ve actually made those muscles weaker than they were before! In an attempt to provide stabilization, the exact opposite is happening. The muscles are becoming weaker and the joint more unstable as a result.

Wearing a brace is simply treating the symptom. It’s doing nothing for the actual cause of your pain. Let’s do an experiment–before you get in the shower, take a look in the mirror. Look at your load joints–shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles–and find what looks “off” about them. Is one shoulder higher than the other? Is one hip rotated more toward the mirror? What about your knees? Which way do they point? Are your feet pointed in different directions? Which foot has more weight in it?

If any joint in your body is “off” as you look at it in the mirror, you’re getting closer to finding the source of your pain! When the body deviates from its design blueprint, pain is the warning signal it sends. We can’t brace the pain and simply mask the true cause. Living pain free starts by returning the joints to their proper position. While bracing might help in the short-term, it is certainly not a long-term solution.

QUESTION: Where were your joints when you looked at yourself in the mirror?