Shoulder Braces 101 - Selecting a Shoulder Brace

Selecting a shoulder brace is not an easy process. You can select a shoulder support for any shoulder injury and in varying support levels for each injury. Shoulder braces are also difficult to size correctly because every person has a different body type (i.e. thin/heavy,short/tall,male/female,muscular/normal). Since most shoulder braces are sized using simply chest circumference you can see why it's hard to get a shoulder support that fits perfectly. In this blog we will try to make the shoulder brace selection process easier. If you have any suggestions based on your experience please share them in the comments following the blog.

Select by Support Level

There are many support rating schemes to rate shoulder brace support levels. I prefer to rate support levels as basic, moderate and high.

Basic Support: These shoulder braces are usually smaller and can be made of a stretch fabric or light neoprene. They are good for wearing during the normal work day and during sleep because they are fairly comfortable. When selecting a basic shoulder support to wear long periods of time I recommend looking at the strap that holds the brace in place. Is it wide or narrow and where does it cut across the chest? Some of the shoulder supports have narrow straps that cut right across the chest. That is not comfortable, especially for the ladies. If the basis shoulder brace is made of neoprene you may be in for a long day because neoprene makes you sweat.

lp-958-basic OPPO 958 Basic Stretch Fabric Shoulder Brace
mcdavid463-lightweightshoulder-brace McDavid 463T Basic Neoprene Shoulder Brace

Moderate Support: Moderate shoulder braces made of neoprene usually cover more shoulder area and are made of a thicker neoprene. The more comfortable fabric versions usually have more than one strap. One of the top selling shoulder braces in the world is the McDavid 462R Universal Shoulder Support. It is made from thermal neoprene to help retain therapeutic body heat, which helps to promote healing. This shoulder support works especially well for athletes because it provides good support and yet allows for shoulder movement. As with the basic support level I'd recommend a stretch fabric style if you intend to wear the brace for extended periods of time.

ncdavid-462R-universal-shoulder-brace McDavid 462R Universal Shoulder Brace
oppo-2172-shoulder-brace OPPO 2172 Stretch Fabric Shoulder Brace

High Support: The high support level shoulder brace is normally used for post operative recovery or to completely immobilize the shoulder joint. These are not really designed to be used for any activity or sport involving shoulder mobility.

mueller-310-shoulder-brace Mueller 310 Pro Shoulder Brace

Select by Type of  Injury

Clavicle or Posture Related Injury: If you are like me, you spend a lot of time at a desk or working at a computer. The natural tendency over time is for the shoulders to slump forward. This tendency over time can cause an impingement in the front of the shoulder joint. Needless to say, the real solution to this is physical therapy involving strengthening the core, upper back and shoulder muscles. A short term solution is a clavicle or posture support. These supports are usually made of fabric or a combination of fabric/stretch elastic. If you buy a cheap clavicle brace be careful because some do not have proper padding and are very uncomfortable where they cross the front of your shoulders. As  with a shoulder brace look for wider straps because they are more comfortable.

oppo-2075-posture-brace OPPO Posture/Clavical Brace
saunder-posture-support Saunders Posture Support

Rotator Cuff / Joint Injuries: These shoulder braces hold the shoulder joint in place and provides soft tissue support through compression. The type of shoulder brace to select depends on intended use and severity of the injury. If it is just a minor injury a " basic level" stretch fabric support will work and the gentle pressure will remind you to "cool it" and not make any sudden shoulder movements that could cause further damage. If you have a slightly more severe injury or are using your shoulder for fitness or athletic activity,  you should use a moderate level neoprene shoulder brace or top level stretch fabric shoulder support. For severe injuries your doctor will probably recommend immobilizing the shoulder for periods of time to  prevent further injury.

mcdavid-neoprene-sports-shoulder-brace McDavid Sports Neoprene Shoulder Brace
bauerfeind-omotrain-shoulder-brace Bauerfeind OmoTrain Shoulder Support

Arthritis / Frozen Shoulder: Arthritis of the shoulder is a very common condition affecting athletes and none athletes alike. Some of my "baby boomer" friends also suffer from what is commonly called a frozen shoulder. When periods of inactivity occur (ie after sleeping) the shoulder tends to be very stiff and painful to move. I have found the best treatment is heat therapy shoulder wrap which gets the blood flowing in the joint and helps loosen it up. Fortunately there are some new products that are very easy to use and relatively inexpensive. Please note they are designed to provide heat therapy for you shoulder, not support.

venture-heat-therapy-shoulder-wrap Venture Far Infrared Heat Therapy Shoulder Wrap
mcdavid-207t-heat-therapy-shoulder-wrap McDavid Thermal Shoulder Wrap

Please check out our shoulder injury resource center for more information about specific shoulder injuries. In future blogs I will review some of the best shoulder rehabilitation exercises.

40 thoughts on “Shoulder Braces 101 - Selecting a Shoulder Brace”

  • Hennie Erasmus
    Hennie Erasmus August 2, 2011 at 8:55 AM

    Good day I had dislocated my left shoulder in Desember last year riding behind a boat on a water worm it capsized and instinctive push my hand out and dislocate my shoulder the weekend of 31st of July 2011 went sky diving for the first time in the air it dislocate again I need a good shoulder brace because that wasn't my last jump wat could you recommend

    Reply
    • Bruce Walseth

      The shoulder support most athletes use is the McDavid 462R Universal Shoulder Support. It provides about the best shoulder support short of a brace that immobilizes the shoulder. It is made of neoprene which keeps the joint warm. Because it is neoprene you wouldn't want to wear it all day but it's perfect for sports activities.

      Reply
  • Adhi

    great read.

    have you ever heard the product EVS SB02 Shoulder Brace by EVS? is it any good?

    I am looking for a shoulder support that can be used while playing basketball, so it must provide a good support for my shoulder (which tends to dislocate often times), yet not compensating my mobilization.
    I am not sure whether to use a basic support or a moderate one. can you give me an opinion?

    Reply
    • Bruce Walseth

      As a former basketball player I would recommend a moderate level support. If there is serious contact your shoulder needs to be held in place better. The downside if its your shooting arm is a little less natural mobility. There are some good stretch fabric braces like the Bauerfeind OmoTrain that give you good support and range of motion. They are more expensive. I have not reviewed the EVS SB02 Shoulder Brace.

      Reply
  • Lee Carpenter

    If I bought the Infarred type of shoulder brace to try is it returnable if it does not work for me.

    I have had 2 years of therapy on my neck and shoulder. My neck is getting better but my shoulder still hurts. I am 85 and have never tried a shoulder brace. please let me know asap. thank you, Lee Carpenter

    Reply
  • Alicia Ziff

    In a similar way to Hennie (dag Hennie!) I too dislocated my shoulder while reaching out to protect my head/face in a sporting accident (mountain biking). After corrective surgery and 8 months in a sling and rehabilitation all went well for several years...until I dislocated it again about a two years ago(while painting my kitchen...doh). I'll probably not be able to get another operation for awhile but would love to be able to go snowboarding this season and am wondering if any of these braces offers enough support for this sort of activity...or is hitting the slopes a pipe dream? Also, I've a somewhat small frame and after looking at several braces online am still unsure if the ones I've seen will fit snugly enough to be effective. I have a smallish chest circumference (32") but am also rather buxom(DD-cup). Can you suggest a brace that may fit me? Kind regards, Alicia

    Reply
  • jake

    Hey,

    A few months ago I was hit by a car and tore my posterior labrum. I didn't have surgery and my doctor said I could start playing hockey again with a shoulder brace. Does anyone have any recommendations for a model that's strong enough to provide support during a rough hockey game while still providing adequate support? Thanks.

    Reply
  • Daniel

    Hi, very interesting reading, thank you. Six weeks ago I experienced a 3rd degree shoulder separation and am just now starting to return to some normal activities, including light sports like cycling. I'm looking for a supportive brace that also keeps the area warm. I anticipate returning to to running, swimming and motorcycle riding.

    In the past I've used elastic/neoprene sleeves when recovering from knee/ankle sprains and tendonitis.

    Recommendation?

    Reply
  • Kevin

    My son recently suffered an AC joint seperation, while playing hockey. I'm looking for a support that will fit him good under his shoulder pads and provide him both support and some extra padding. What type would you suggest I buy for him?

    Reply
    • Tim Jakel

      I suggest the McDavid 462R Universal Shoulder Support Brace. It is our most popular shoulder support among male athletes. There is a pocket over the AC joint that has a pad in it for extra cushion and the pad can be removed to insert a hot or cold pack for therapy. The McDavid 462R Universal Shoulder Support is made of neoprene so it will provide extra padding. Here is the link:

      https://www.return2fitness.net/Supports_And_Braces/Shoulder_Supports/md462-shoulder

      Reply
  • Ed

    I have a history of tendonitis in both shoulders from years of swimming competitively in high school and college. I have had surgery on my right shoulder twice and left shoulder once to relieve impingement syndrome, remove bone spurs, etc. I continue to have pain from time to time. I work at a desk all day and I am trying to workout doing crossfit exercises. I find any overhead exercises produce pain and sometimes if I sleep on my side, I will feel it the next day. Do you have a recommendation for a shoulder brace that can be worn during workouts? Do you also recommend wearing the brace for sleeping or during the day at work? Thanks!!

    Reply
    • Tim Jakel

      I recommend the Bauerfeind OmoTrain. It is by far our most comfortable and supportive shoulder support. It can be worn all day and night and during exercises. The Bauerfeind OmoTrain will help with the pain you are having as well. It is also very high quality, therefore, it will last you a long time. Here is the link to the product on our website:

      https://www.return2fitness.net/Supports_And_Braces/Shoulder_Supports/bauerfeindshoulder

      Reply
  • Diane OF

    Hi
    I have a connective tissue disorder which causes my shoulders to sublux while I sleep. I need a brace that will help stabilize my shoulder (right) while being comfortable enough to sleep with. Sleeping on my back or stomach is not an option as all of my joints are affected. Can you recommend any product for this problem?

    Reply
  • Caitlin

    I dislocated my right shoulder throwing the javelin last year. I need a strong brace that will allow me to move my arm in a throwing motion, but prevent another dislocation.

    Reply
  • David

    I had surgery to repair a torn labrum on my R shoulder. Im heading back to work, and Im trying to figure the best sleeve or brace I can use to protect it. Any suggestions? Thank you

    Reply
  • Angy

    My daughter is 17 very flexible, a volleyball player diagnosed with multidirectional instability in her hitting shoulder. She has beefed up her muscles and currently tapes it with Leuko tape before she plays. This tape is working but is taking a toll on her skin. Would the Bauerfeind Omo-train be a good fit for her or is there something else that you would recommend? I also looked at the Oppo Reinforce--some others looked good but not so much for women. I'd love to hear your opinion.
    Thanks
    Angy

    Reply
  • Rebecca

    Are there shoulder braces for small women? My upper arm is nine inches and my chest is 33 inches. I ice skate and my shoulder has dislocated three times after falls.

    Reply
    • Tim Jakel

      Hi Rebecca,

      Yes, there are braces that are suitable for small women. I would recommend the BAUERFEIND OmoTrain Shoulder Support. The sizing chart for this brace is listed below (measure the circumference of the biceps):

      0 = 7.75 - 8.5 inches
      1 = 8.5 - 9.5 inches
      2 = 9.5 - 10.25 inches
      3 = 10.25 - 11.5 inches
      4 = 11.5 - 12.5 inches
      5 = 12.5 - 14.25 inches
      6 = 14.25 - 15.75 inches

      Reply
  • sonu

    I recommend the Bauerfeind Omo Train. It is a very light weight shoulder support and very high quality. Therefore, it allows for a wide range of motion and is quite durable.

    Reply
  • Jeffrey Mazur
    Jeffrey Mazur May 6, 2013 at 12:26 PM

    Hi - I have had repeated dislocations of my left shoulder over the past 15 years (maybe 6 times...). The last three playing basketball. This recently occurred again, and I want to get a brace to help to prevent this from happening again. I am a righty, so it is not my shooting arm. Would you recommend the more heavy duty McDavid, or the Omotrain? I also play volleyball, have dislocated it once doing that so I no longer hit with my left ;)

    Reply
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