Whether you’ve sustained a shoulder injury, are recovering from surgery, or want to improve your athletic performance, a shoulder brace can provide you with the support and stability needed to speed healing and prevent re-injury.
In this buyer’s guide, we’ll review the best shoulder braces and supports currently available on the market.
But before we review the best shoulder supports, we’ll look at the specific benefits of shoulder braces and what features you should be looking for when purchasing one.
Why Use a Shoulder Brace?
In order to understand how a shoulder brace can be useful in preventing and treating shoulder injuries, it’s important to consider the anatomy of the shoulder.
Like the hip, the shoulder is a ball and socket joint.
It consists of two bones – the humerus (arm bone) and the scapula (shoulder blade) – and is surrounded by a network of muscles and ligaments that allow for a wide range of motion of the arm.
Unlike the hip, however, the shoulder socket is relatively shallow.
While this permits a wider range of movement, it also makes the shoulder less stable – and, therefore, more susceptible to injury – than the body’s other ball-and-socket joints.
Shoulder braces aid in the recovery of shoulder injuries by stabilizing the shoulder joint and providing compression, which helps reduce inflammation.
Shoulder braces can also help correct postural misalignments that can lead to shoulder pain.
It should be kept in mind, however, that a shoulder brace is not intended to replace professional medical treatment.
If you’ve experienced a shoulder injury or have chronic shoulder pain, it’s important to consult with your doctor to rule out an underlying illness or injury.
Common shoulder injuries include:
Bursitis occurs when the bursae – small, fluid-filled sacs that act as cushioning between the shoulder bones – become inflamed.
The most common cause of bursitis is repetitive motion injury, but this condition is also associated with arthritis, diabetes, gout, and thyroid disease.
Tendinitis often occurs in conjunction with bursitis.
This condition is characterized by inflammation of the tendons in the shoulder and bicep.
Tendinitis can be either acute (as a result of a sports injury, for example) or chronic (due to degenerative diseases, repetitive motions, or age-related wear and tear).
Osteoarthritis of the shoulder can occur due to injury, disease, or age-related wear and tear of the cartilage that between the bones of the shoulder joint.
Osteoarthritis the most common type of arthritis affecting the shoulder.
Shoulder instability is a common injury among athletes.
It is caused by repeated propulsive movements of the arm (such as throwing) that force the head of the humerus out of the shoulder blade socket.
Rotator cuff tear
It can occur as a result of trauma to or overuse of the rotator cuff.
Rotator cuff injuries are often seen in weight lifters, tennis players, swimmers, baseball pitchers, and others who engage in activities that require repetitive overhead motions.
What to Look for When Buying a Shoulder Brace
Braces are available in a wide range of styles, from basic sling-type supports that immobilize the shoulder to stabilizers that allow for a full range of movement so the wearer can continue to engage in sports and other activities.
Below are a few important features to consider when shopping for the best shoulder brace for your needs.
Shoulder braces are made from a variety of materials, including neoprene, Lycra, and mesh.
The material you choose will determine the brace’s breathability, durability, and ability to retain heat.
If you plan to wear the shoulder support for an extended period of time, you’ll want to be sure to buy a shoulder brace made from high-quality, durable materials.
A good indicator of quality is if the brace is backed by a money-back guarantee.
Level of support
Some shoulder braces are designed to immobilize the shoulder, while others are designed to be worn when playing sports or engaging in other activities that require a full range of movement of the shoulder joint.
When shopping for a shoulder support, consider how you plan to use it and what level of support you’ll need.
Some braces come with removable gel packs that can be frozen or heated to provide targeted relief from pain and inflammation.
Cold therapy satisfies the “I” component of the R.I.C.E. (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation) method for treating injuries.
Shoulder braces are relatively inexpensive, so you’ll want to be sure to purchase the highest-quality product that your budget will allow for.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that the more expensive braces are better, however, be sure to read customer reviews to get a better idea of a shoulder support’s quality before you purchase it.
The Best Shoulder Braces for Support
In this section, we’ll review the best shoulder braces that are currently available on the market.
We based these selections on durability, ease of use, comfort, and price.
1. NatraCure Hot/Cold & Compression Shoulder Support
The NatraCure Hot/Cold Compression Shoulder Support features a convenient air pump system, which allows the wearer to easily adjust the level of compression.
It also has removable gel packs that can be heated or frozen.
The NatraCure Hot/Cold Compression Shoulder Support can be worn on either shoulder and fits chests up to 50 inches.
One minor concern customers have with this brace is that it can be difficult to put on alone.
A few customers have also complained that the brace is bulky, although this is to be expected given the durability of the unit.
Overall, though, this is a great brace for anyone who wants to benefit from compression and cold therapy while recovering from shoulder injuries like bursitis, tendinitis, and tendon tears.
Pros: Can be worn on left or right shoulder, features removable hot/cold gel packs, air pump system for compression adjustment
Cons: Difficult to put on alone, may be too bulky for some
2. Shoulder Stability Brace with Pressure Pad
Babo Care’s Shoulder Stability Brace features a two-way adjustment system that allows the brace to be worn on either the left or right shoulder.
It also features a unique pressure pad that is designed to hold an ice or heat pack in place.
The Shoulder Stability Brace by Babo Care is made from a lightweight, breathable neoprene material that ensures maximum comfort when engaging in strenuous activities.
The brace is designed to fit wearers with a chest size between 33 and 45 inches, so it may be too large for some.
It is backed by a 45-day money-back guarantee, however, so you can try it out before committing to purchasing it.
Pros: Inexpensive, features two-way adjustment system, made from lightweight breathable neoprene, backed by a 45-day money-back guarantee
Cons: May be too large for some
3. FIGHTECH Support & Injury Prevention Brace
The FIGHTECH Support & Injury Prevention Brace is a versatile shoulder support that not only allows for a full range of movement while playing sports, but can also be used to immobilize the shoulder while you’re at rest.
It can be worn on both shoulders and features a pocket for an ice or heat pack.
This brace provides great stability to the shoulder, but it can be difficult to put on alone.
Another frequent complaint from customers is that the chest strap tends to bunch up.
As with the Babo Care shoulder stability Brace, however, the FIGHTECH Support & Injury Prevention Brace is backed by a 45-day satisfaction guarantee that allows you to try the product out before buying it.
Pros: Unisex design, available in two sizes, can be worn on either shoulder, features pocket for ice/heat pack, backed by a 45-day money-back guarantee
Cons: Chest strap tends to roll
4. Shock Doctor Shoulder Support Brace
Featuring a soft Lycra stretch mesh zone and N-Tex air-flow panels, the Shoulder Support Brace by Shock Doctor is one of the most comfortable shoulder braces on the market.
It is available in a range of sizes (extra small to triple extra-large) and has an adjustable strap system for a more precise fit.
This brace tends to fit large, though, so you’ll want to be sure to refer to the manufacturer’s sizing guide before purchasing it.
Pros: Two-strap adjustment system for a more precise fit, can be worn on left or right shoulder, features N-Tex air-flow panels for maximum breathability, available in wide range of sizes
Cons: Sizing runs large
5. EVS Sports SB03 Shoulder Brace
The EVS Sports SB03 Shoulder Brace features an adjustable arm closure that helps prevent underarm chafing.
It also has three velcro straps to allow for easy adjustment of compression.
Breathable mesh panels keep you cool while you’re training or playing sports, while the slim-fitting design of the brace allows it to be worn comfortably under soothing.
This brace provides a high level of compression that may be uncomfortable for some, especially when first starting to use it.
A few customers have also complained that the velcro straps are irritating against the skin.
Despite these minor complaints, however, the EVS Sports Shoulder Brace is a great choice for those seeking a brace that will provide stability to the shoulder while also allowing for a full range of motion.
Pros: Slim-fitting design, adjustable arm closure design, breathable mesh panels, can be worn on either shoulder
Cons: Velcro closure may chafe skin, can be uncomfortable to wear at first
6. McDavid Shoulder Support Brace
Like the EVS Sports SB03 Shoulder Brace, the McDavid Shoulder Support Brace provides support and compression while allowing for a full range of motion.
It also has an adjustable arm closure that allows you to customize the level of compression.
What makes this brace different than the EVS Sports Brace, however, is its patented HexPad Technology, a lightweight, breathable padding system designed to conform to the contours of the body for maximum support and protection.
The McDavid Shoulder Support is a durable, high-quality brace that provides intense compression to aid in recovery from AC tears and other shoulder injuries.
That said, the compression may me too intense for some.
Depending on the severity of your injury and your tolerance for pain, this may not be the right brace for you.
Pros: Available in three sizes, allows for full range of movement, features hook-and-loop adjustment system, unisex design, can be worn on either shoulder
Cons: Some may find strap uncomfortable, compression may be too intense for some
7. ActiveWrap Shoulder Ice Compression Support
The ActiveWrap Shoulder Ice Compression Support is specifically designed to provide extra support and stability when engaging in activities that require overhead motions or shoulder rotations – such as playing tennis, swimming, and pitching.
Like the NatraCure Hot/Cold Compression Shoulder Support, the ActiveWrap Shoulder Ice Compression Support comes with removable gel packs that can be frozen or heated.
Some customers have complained that the pockets for the gel packs are not positioned in a way that provides targeted pain relief.
The brace is backed by a 30-day money-back guarantee, though, which effectively allows you to test the product before buying it.
Pros: Includes removable gel packs for hot/cold therapy, available in two sizes, can be worn on either shoulder
Cons: Expensive, does not provide targeted pain relief
The Best Shoulder Brace: Recommendations
In terms of price, durability, ease of use, and overall value, the best shoulder brace is the Shoulder Stability Brace by Babo Care.
Its lightweight, slim-fitting construction makes the brace ideal for use under everyday and athletic clothing, while the pressure pad does a great job of holding an ice or heat pack in place for more targeted pain relief.
Best of all, if you’re not completely satisfied with the brace, you can return it for a no-questions-asked refund.
If you don’t mind the extra bulkiness and want a shoulder brace with more features, the NatraCure shoulder support is a great alternative.
It offers both hot and cold therapy as well as an air pump to get the desired level of support you need.
Choosing the best shoulder brace is essential for speeding recovery from an accident, sports injury, or surgery.
This buyer’s guide should help you understand the different types of shoulder braces and supports that are available so you can find the best one for your individual needs.