DME (durable medical equipment): Ankle brace

The 26 Review

  • What are ankle braces Ankle braces are supportive devices designed to provide support, stability, and protection to the ankle joint, in order to prevent an ankle injury or support an ankle after an injury.
  • Why Ankle braces can restrict excess movement, prevent rolling or twisting, and reduce swelling, pain and inflammation.
  • Recommended For Individuals who have sprained or strained their ankle and individuals with chronic ankle instability
  • Common Conditions Sprained ankle, history of ankle fracture, arthritis, poor balance, dysfunctional gait, and Achilles Tendonitis

Let’s take a closer look…

Ankle braces are supportive devices designed to provide stability and protection to the ankle joint. They are commonly used in the prevention and treatment of ankle injuries, such as sprains and strains. These are typically made of a combination of materials, including elastic fabric, straps, and rigid supports. They are available in various designs, ranging from simple sleeves that slide over the ankle to more complex braces with adjustable straps and hinges.

Ankle braces work by restricting excessive movement of the ankle, preventing it from rolling or twisting in ways that could cause injury. They also provide compression, which helps reduce swelling and inflammation. These braces are often used by athletes, particularly in sports that involve jumping, pivoting, or high-impact movements.

Additionally, individuals with chronic ankle instability or those recovering from ankle injuries may benefit from wearing ankle braces during physical activity or as a preventive measure. It is important to choose the appropriate type and size of ankle brace and to follow the guidance of a healthcare professional for proper fitting and usage.

Benefits

Generally, an ankle brace keeps the foot and toes pointed forward, preventing inward rotation or twisting of the foot and ankle. Ankle sprains include the stretching and tearing of ligaments, tendons, and other soft tissues within the legs, ankles, and feet. Most ankle sprains occur due to sudden twisting or rotation of the ankle joint.

Podiatrists often advise patients to wear ankle braces for joint support and to prevent further injury. Bracing also limits the development of scar tissue, arthritis, and reduces both chronic and acute pain. It is often used as an additive tool after surgery, physical therapy, exercise, casting, and other medical procedures.

The most common benefits of an ankle brace include the following:

  • Reduces pain
  • Prevents injuries
  • Reduces swelling in the foot and ankle
  • Ankle braces help to stabilize the joint, which is important for those with an injury
  • They can improve balance and stability, which allows individuals to stay on their feet for longer periods of time

Types

Generally speaking, there are 5 types of braces: sleeves, straps, stirrups, lace-ups, and hybrids. Medical professionals classify each of these braces from most comfortable to most stable. Unfortunately, the more stable a brace is, usually the less comfortable it is. It is crucial to speak with a podiatrist to determine which brace is right for you.

Sleeves

Sleeves are the least stable and most comfortable ankle brace offered. These products are easily accessible at most drugstores and sporting goods stores. Oftentimes, patients will use ankle sleeves as compression devices, but it is important to note that these sleeves can be too tight and should be worn in moderation. Many patients will utilize ankle sleeves in addition to a more stable ankle brace.

Straps

The strap style brace utilizes cloth straps that wrap around the ankle, creating a heel-lock figure eight. The straps will vary in thickness and flexibility, while the material utilized for the whole brace will affect the overall performance and comfort. These styles of braces are most popular among athletes and people who engage in high-intensity workouts.

Stirrups

Stirrup braces are multifunctional braces that allow for customization by the user. Patients can adjust the stirrups by adding metal or plastic strips to increase the rigidity for greater control. Individuals can also adjust the air bladders with a pump. Overall, the stirrup style is not really used for sports, but rather as alternatives for splints and controlled ankle motion walkers.

Lace-ups

The Lace-up brace is made of rigid materials and is very stable. This type of ankle support device features a lace-up closure, providing stabilization and support to the ankle joint. The laces can be tightened or loosened to achieve a secure and customized fit. Lace-up ankle braces offer adjustable compression to allow for a personalized level of support and immobilization.

Hybrid

Hybrid ankle braces take all the key characteristics of the sleeve, strap, stirrup, and lace-up braces, in order to create a very comfortable and stable brace. This style of brace typically combines the stability and support of a rigid ankle brace with the flexibility and comfort of a soft ankle brace.

Hybrid ankle braces often feature a rigid or semi-rigid shell on the lateral (outer) side of the ankle, providing structural support and preventing excessive ankle inversion (rolling outward). The medial (inner) side of the ankle, on the other hand, may have a more flexible design, allowing for a greater range of motion and natural movement.

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