Recently I have been seeing a client who is nearing the end of their recovery from a wrist injury. Since their injury, they had been wearing a wrist brace in their day-to-day life in order to assist with function at work and with other activities in their personal life. When we first began working together, there was a high degree of pain, swelling, and severe restrictions in strength and range of motion as a result. More recently, with consistent physiotherapy, pain management, and home exercises, this individual is feeling great and close to no longer needing their wrist brace to function. They asked me “Can I stop wearing my wrist brace?”
Their function has been much improved; they are able to bear weight through their wrist, and have been doing all of their activities at home without their brace, so I was close to telling this person to put the brace away, hopefully for good. The one variable that prevented me from allowing this immediately was their environment! It is great that they are able to go about their day without their brace in some settings, and that is often encouraged in physical therapy to some extent, but it it critical to be aware of the differences between settings that we frequent in our daily lives.
We have seen improvements to the point that it is almost no longer recognizable that there was a wrist injury to begin with, but this individual works in a busy environment, closely with a large number of people, and frequents their local grocery store, often utilizing public transit (all of these are very busy, and potentially risky, settings). At this point in their recovery, they are doing most of their daily tasks without the brace, but it remains important to stay protected in these unpredictable environments for the final few weeks of their recovery. When we are wearing some type of brace (this also includes crutches, canes, and other forms of physical supports seen in a physiotherapy and injury rehabilitation setting), it can help in multiple ways. When someone notices that we are wearing a brace, or using some kind of assistive device, it lets them know that we are still recovering from an injury and so long as it’s noticed, it will often get us the extra bit of space it takes to keep safe. Also, in the event that it goes unseen, and we are bumped by an individual or object in our surroundings, it will lower the chance that we re-injure the currently recovering area.
Once we are at our 100% pre-injury strength and function, it’s time to tuck the brace away in all settings, and hope that we never need to use it again. Until then, even if we are at 95% recovery, it is always important to remember that we are still working our way towards full function, and keeping ourselves protected in high-risk environments remains important until we can be confident we have made a full recovery.
It is important to keep in mind that every situation is different, and this information is not to be considered sound medical advice for your particular injury/condition. If you’ve had a recent injury or are determining whether you are ready to discontinue using your external supports following an injury, be sure to speak to your physiotherapist or another health professional before making any decisions related to your care.
Note: Consent was received from this client to share their question and my associated response. Personal details, identifiers, and particulars related to their injury and course of recovery were omitted to protect the client’s privacy.
Stay safe and take care,
First Line Physiotherapy