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.
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="128"]lp-958 basic shoulder brace LP-958 Basic Stretch Fabric Shoulder Brace[/caption] [caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="125"]mcdavid 463 light-weight shoulder brace McDavid 463T Basic Neoprene Shoulder Brace[/caption]
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.
[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="126"]mcdavid 462R universal shoulder brace McDavid 462R Universal Shoulder Brace[/caption] [caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="124"]oppo 2172 shoulder brace OPPO 2172 Stretch Fabric Shoulder Brace[/caption]
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.
[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="126"]mueller 310 shoulder brace Mueller 310 Pro Shoulder Brace[/caption]

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.
[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="136"]oppo 2075 posture brace OPPO Posture/Clavicle Brace[/caption]
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.
[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="124"]bauerfeind omotrain shoulder brace Bauerfeind OmoTrain Shoulder Support[/caption]
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.
[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="125"]mcdavid 207t heat therapy shoulder wrap McDavid Thermal Shoulder Wrap[/caption]
In future blogs I will review some of the best shoulder rehabilitation exercises.

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  • 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.

    Bruce Walseth on

  • 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?

    Adhi on

  • 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.

    Bruce Walseth on

  • 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

    Hennie Erasmus on

  • They are returnable in returned in the same packaging and with no visible signs of use

    Bruce Walseth on

  • Ladies are very hard to fit because the strap needs go go above the breasts. OPPO just came out with the AccuTex Shoulder Activator which has been very well received by the ladies. It provides very good support and is about as comfortable as you can get with a shoulder brace.

    Bruce Walseth on

  • 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

    Alicia Ziff on

  • 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

    Lee Carpenter on

  • Our two most popular shoulder supports used by athletes:

    McDavid Universal Shoulder Support Brace

    BAUERFEIND OmoTrain Shoulder Support

    The BAUERFEIND OmoTrain Shoulder Support is going to be higher quality and more comfortable.

    Tim Jakel on

  • 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.


    Daniel on

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