The 10 Best Shoulder Immobilizers
This wiki has been updated 17 times since it was first published in October of 2016. Injuring oneself is bad enough without the additional worry of protecting your arm or shoulder while you heal. These immobilizers are specifically designed to provide a comfortable level of support, and are available in streamlined models for maximum mobility and ease of use, as well as sturdier options for more serious issues. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki. Skip to the best shoulder immobilizer on Amazon.
When To Use A Shoulder Immobilizer
On the psychological side, having your arm pinned to your body will help your brain eliminate it as an option for reactive movements.
If you’ve ever had a serious shoulder injury, you’re well aware of how sensitive the healing process can be. You might not realize it until you’ve had pain in that area, but the shoulders are responsible for a tremendous amount of your upper body coordination, and any injury to that part of the body can be extremely painful, whether you’re inadvertently moving the shoulder itself or just sitting around breathing.
About five years ago I was hit from behind into the boards during a game of ice hockey, bruising the top of the shoulder and tearing two rather important tendons just behind the brink of needing surgery to repair them. The only thing I could do to help the shoulder heal and minimize pain was to take an analgesic and to keep my shoulder as still as possible.
If you’re in any similar situation, whether you’ve suffered a rotator cuff injury or you’ve found another way to damage your shoulder, you’re going to want to get your hands on a shoulder immobilizer. You’ll find it effective in a number of ways.
For starters, a good immobilizer will, as its name suggests, keep your shoulder as inactive as possible. That rest is integral to the healing of the joint, as any additional movement after an injury can cause setbacks.
Along those lines, a shoulder immobilizer will also help prevent you from making any large, reactive movements that could do real damage. This is both a practical and psychological effect. On the practical side, the immobilizer will prevent your arm from extending in a reactive manner (like when something falls in front of you and you instinctively try to catch it with your bad arm, for example). On the psychological side, having your arm pinned to your body will help your brain eliminate it as an option for reactive movements.
Shoulder immobilizers also position your shoulder in a manner that can optimize healing. If an immobilizer froze your arm somewhere above your head, it would likely take you much longer to heal, and you might even heal in the wrong way. But an immobilizer will ensure that tendons or muscles that need time to repair will do so in a manner that’s ergonomic to the natural flow of the joint, preventing the buildup of unnecessary scar tissue and helping you return to the full mobility you enjoyed before the injury.
How To Choose The Right Immobilizer For Your Injury
As you peruse the shoulder immobilizers on our list, you’re likely to notice that there are a few different styles available to you. Knowing which one is right for your injury isn’t particularly difficult, but we do recommend that, in addition to taking our advice, you double-check any decision you make with your doctor.
The clearest difference among the immobilizers on the market is the way that they attach to the body.
The clearest difference among the immobilizers on the market is the way that they attach to the body. Some options simply wrap tightly around the torso. These keep all of the weight of the injured arm on your hips and lower back, so there’s no drag on your shoulders. This is especially nice if you have a major injury to one shoulder, and a minor injury to another, as it won’t cause any unnecessary pain.
Other options on the market resemble traditional slings, but they may have additional means to keep the arm and shoulder still. The great advantage of these is that they won’t slip below the ideal healing position like torso-only models might, and they don’t have to be tightened around your stomach, making them both more comfortable and potentially better for healing.
Once you’ve decided on a style, you’ll want to investigate the material quality and breathability of a given model. If you have any sensitivity to certain fabrics, make sure that the option you’ve got your eye on doesn’t contain any of them. Certain materials will breathe better than others, as well, and you might find an immobilizer particularly uncomfortable in a humid climate if it doesn’t breathe well.
The last variable you might want to consider is appearance. It may seem shallow at first to approach an implement like this with an eye toward fashion, but there is some wisdom here. Shoulder injuries are among the most frustrating for their pain level and ability to keep you out of action. Any advantage you can gain in the healing process — even if it’s one gained from feeling better about the way you look in your immobilizer — might make a positive difference.
A Brief History Of Immobilization
You probably heard it pretty early on in your life, especially if you were a rambunctious or athletic child who suffered an injury or two: the healing process requires rest, ice, compression, and elevation. The first item on that list is what shoulder immobilizers concern themselves with, but the history of the technique far predates your first childhood injury.
The first item on that list is what shoulder immobilizers concern themselves with, but the history of the technique far predates your first childhood injury.
The evidence of that development comes to us in the form of an ancient document from Egypt. The Edwin Smith Papyrus — named for the man who discovered it, not for an ancient Egyptian with a suspiciously Anglican name — is a long medical text that exemplifies the impressive amount of anatomical knowledge that the Egyptians had amassed.
Those early Egyptian texts suggested cotton wraps as a means of immobilization, and cloth of varying materials was the primary way to keep limbs still during the healing process for the next several millennia. The use of wood and leather in the creation of splints and similar immobilization devices was fairly common, as well, though simple cloth was more commonplace, especially among the lower classes who were more strapped for spare materials.
Today, there are plenty of natural and synthetic materials for manufacturers to choose from. These help immobilizers keep their shape after weeks of use, and even stand up to the rigors of multiple injuries. The means for fastening modern implements are far superior, as well, with Velcro being among the most popular options.
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