Aids for joint pain relief

Compression supports can be used to relieve pain around the joints, such as the knee, but they should not be used for the long term, according to musculoskeletal physiotherapist Calvin Sim.

Compression supports are easily available and they can help to relieve minor pain around the joints. But they are not meant to be worn month after month.

"You can use the supports as a preventive tool, to help relieve pain. They act like an external muscle," said Mr Calvin Sim, a musculoskeletal physiotherapist at Physio Connectionz.

"The muscles can contract better as there is less pain."

Indeed, compression support is used to provide stability to the recovering joint to keep the person on the go when he does daily activities, fitness training and sports, said Ms Michelle Kwong, the principal physiotherapist at Physioclinic.

The supports are there to help you - but only temporarily. "Supports are not meant for long-term use," cautioned Mr Sim. "The constant use of supports will weaken your muscles. Your muscles will shrink."

Ms Kwong said compression supports can typically be used for six to eight weeks, although this varies according to the person's condition -- his injury and its severity.

The supports should be used in the recovery stage, to protect the injured tissues and prevent the injury from recurring, she said.

However, the continuous use of supports, without any diagnosis or professional advice, should be limited to two weeks at the most, said Mr Sim.

"I would not recommend permanent long-term usage of any support. If you don't recover in two weeks, you'll need to get your pain looked into," he said.

In other words, do not become reliant on any supports.

HOW TO CHOOSE SUPPORTS

Supports should be comfortable to wear and made of breathable, long-lasting material, said Ms Kwong.

Ensure that it is of the right size and can provide ample support and compression, said Mr Sim.

But it should not be so tight as to restrict your blood supply, he added.

Adjustable supports, which you can tighten on demand by turning a dial on it, are generally better as you can easily adjust the amount of compression that you need while wearing it, Mr Sim said.

For the knee, supports that come with a hole over the patellar region (kneecap) are recommended as they do not press the kneecap against the thigh bone, like closed patellar knee supports do, he said.

Those who need help with choosing their supports can approach pharmacists at health and beauty chain outlets with an in-store pharmacy, said Mr Sim, who has been training the pharmacists at various chains.

But if you are unsure of your condition and the type of guard to use, get help from a physiotherapist, advised Ms Kwong.

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When to use them

Supports can help to relieve pain.

Mr Calvin Sim, a musculoskeletal physiotherapist at Physio Connectionz tells us when to use them.

KNEE

Consider getting a knee compression support if you experience intermittent sharp pain when you are exercising or even climbing the stairs.

But if you experience constant knee pain while walking, for instance, it is best to consult an orthopaedic surgeon, sports physician or physiotherapist to have your pain assessed.

WRIST

Get a wrist support if you experience pain or weakness in your hand while you are carrying things, writing or even typing.

If you experience numbness in your fingers or hand, consult the experts before buying the support.

Some wrist supports come with a metal splint. These are suitable for those with a more serious problem, such as a dislocated joint or severe carpal tunnel syndrome.

ELBOW

These can help relieve the pain that radiates from your elbow down your forearm.

You may experience the pain while carrying things, turning a door knob, typing or exercising.

ANKLE AND FOOT

These can be used to control excessive swelling after a sprain.

Ankle supports can also be used during the healing process to avoid aggravating the injury.

BACK

These are generally recommended for those who complain of acute lower back pain and have difficulty standing, walking or even sitting.

The supports can help to support the joints while your muscles or ligaments recover from the minor strain. They are not meant to be a cure for your condition and should be used for about one to two weeks.


This article was first published on May 21, 2015.
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