Best Wrist Braces
The wrist joint seems simple from the outside, but it’s actually a clever combination of many different smaller joints, that together, allow for movement in virtually all directions. This, combined with the fact that we use our arms and hands for almost all activities, means the wrist is more prone to injuries and other conditions that can cause pain and inflammation.
If you’re looking for a good wrist brace, then chances are you know what it’s like to have an injury or painful condition of the wrist. Whether you sprained your wrist playing a sport, you’re suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome from a career of typing on a keyboard, or you perform some form of physical task for a living and the stress and repetition has caught up to you, there’s a wrist brace for pretty much everyone.
The problem in this case is that the wide variety of wrist braces available can make it a little overwhelming to make a decision. How do you know what wrist brace is best for you? Why do some wrist braces look way different than other wrist braces? These are all concepts we hope to clarify in this article.
Before we go into more general information about wrist anatomy, injuries, and conditions, we will get straight to the point and provide you with our top 10 picks for the best wrist braces currently available. These wrist braces are not ranked in any particular order, as we are also trying to show you many different styles, hopefully allowing you to identify a wrist brace that properly suits your needs.
Mueller Fitted Wrist Brace (Best for Tendonitis Pain Relief)
Mueller Sports Medicine, found by Curt Mueller in 1959, is a highly popular and reliable sports medicine company that makes excellent wrist braces. This brace, the Mueller Fitted Wrist Brace, offers excellent value and can be considered as a great all-around wrist brace.
This brace acts directly on the wrist joint, and while it does loop around your thumb for a secure fit, it still allows for full thumb and finger range of motion. This means it isn’t good if you need your thumb or any of your fingers to be fully stabilized, but if the issue is with your wrist, then it’s definitely a good brace.
This is a soft brace made from breathable material (latex-free) that helps make it comfortable to wear for long periods of time, so it’s great for conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome. The material is created without the use of petroleum, the green inner lining is made of 67% percent recycled plastic PET bottles, and the Spandex binding is made from 73% recycled materials. This truly is a green brace! Furthermore, the material is antimicrobial, which helps reduce odors after heavy use, helps prevent stains, and increases the overall durability of the brace.
This wrist brace comes in two different sizes: S/M and X/XL. S/M is meant for wrists 5-8 inches around (12-20 cm), and the X/XL size is meant for wrists measuring 8-10 inches (20-25 cm). It can be washed in cold water with mild detergent, but you should not use any bleach or fabric softener. You can’t put it in the dryer, but it dries fairly quickly in the air.
Overall, this is a really good wrist brace for lots of different conditions, especially conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome, where you potentially need to wear the brace for long periods of time. It offers excellent value at a very affordable price point, and the name behind the brace should instill some level of confidence in the product. Therefore, if you need a good all-around wrist brace that doesn’t limit thumb or finger motion, the Mueller Fitted Wrist Brace should definitely be a consideration.
Mueller Reversible Thumb Stabilizer (A great, cheap brace)
The Mueller Reversible Thumb Stabilizer could be considered a wrist brace, as it does still provide compression and some support to the wrist joint complex; however, it’s main purpose is to stabilize the thumb. Specifically, this brace is meant to stabilize the metacarpophalengeal (MCP) joint of the thumb, which is capable of a high range of motion relative to other joints, so it can be tough to stabilize without a brace.
This wrist and thumb stabilizer/brace is ideal for soft tissue injuries located at or near the thumb. For example, gamekeeper’s thumb (a.k.a. skiers thumb), other ligament sprains, osteoarthritis, and general pain associated with repetitive stress from things like typing, texting, or gaming. The two-way stays provide maximum support, and the three adjustable straps allow for a custom fit.
The fabric is soft and breathable, as well as antimicrobial, so it can be worn for long periods of time. In fact, in addition to daily use, this thumb brace can be comfortably worn while sleeping, and many customers have had great results with this. If you do wear it while you sleep, one thing to be cautious of is that you don’t pull the straps too tight. You want to make sure you still have proper circulation throughout the night!
The brace itself is fairly durable as well. The Velcro on the straps holds up quite well over time, and if it ever does start to fray, you can simply get creative and place the straps in a slightly different location (e.g. stick on strap to another) to get the most life out of it as possible.
Overall, this is an excellent wrist brace if you need to prioritize stabilizing your thumb, particularly at the MCP joint, which can be a common location for arthritis-related conditions, as well as common soft tissue damage like skier’s thumb and other ligament sprains. You still receive compression at the wrist, as well as a little added support from the strapping system, so you get some relief of pain in both areas. This is also a great brace for typing, as it can be worn for long periods of time and still be comfortable.
NOTE: If you need something more specific to arthritis in the hands and fingers, please check out our article reviewing the best arthritis gloves.
DonJoy ComfortFORM Wrist Brace (Great for Sprained Wrists)
This is another wrist brace created by a reputable company that is well-versed in sports medicine braces (DonJoy), and similar tot he Mueller Fitted Wrist Brace, this also offers strong value. The design is fairly simple, but with lots of sizes to choose from and an adjustable fit, it provides goo all-around bracing ability directly at the wrist joint.
This brace looks fairly extensive, but it’s actually quite simple and is arguably the most popular design for a wrist brace. It comes with a removable contoured aluminum palmar stay, which helps control wrist flexion. Even with the aluminum, it’s still lightweight and comfortable. There isn’t a ton of padding on the inside of the brace, but the anatomical fit makes the most of the padding that’s there, and it also cuts down on weight and facilitate a more breathable design.
On that note, while this wrist brace is breathable and should cause your arm to sweat, the design naturally lends itself to keeping in some heat. So you may notice some warmth, especially at first, but hardly anyone has reported an issue with sweating. If you do find that becomes an issue for you, a simple fix is to add some thin moisture-wicking material (some people even found that an thin layer of cotton helps), to help wick away sweat from the inside of the brace.
Overall, this brace comes in at an affordable price point and is good for wrist injuries and conditions like sprains and carpal tunnel syndrome. It still allows finger and thumb mobility, and the adjustable straps are quite long, so you have lots of room for adjustment. In fact, some customers have notice the straps are way longer than necessary for them, in which case they just cut the extra material with a pair of scissors, limiting any additional bulk. Therefore, if you sprained your wrist, or simply need to immobilize or support your wrist to help deal with a more long-term condition, then we think the DonJoy ComfortFORM Wrist Brace should be a consideration.
The DP3 BioSkin Wrist Brace is a cock-up wrist brace that is a little more expensive, but it’s an exceptionally comfortable and sturdy design with high durability. Like lots of other wrist braces, it allows for full movement of the thumb and fingers while still providing ample support for the wrist joint.
One thing we really like about the DP3 BioSkin Wrist Brace is the high adjustability. The brace includes both a dorsal (back of hand/wrist) and palmar (front of hand/wrist) removable stay. These can help to add firm support for your wrist, limiting motion in the flexion/extension directions, or just one or the other if you only use one of the stays (or none at all if you remove them altogether!). Moreover, these stays can be conveniently shaped using your own hands, which can really go a long way in ensuring a comfortable anatomical fit.
The brace is constructed with BioSkin’s patented Ultima 2s material and also features a thin layer of ultra-soft micro-fleece fabric, which is the part in contact with your skin. Not only is this fabric really soft and comfortable, it also help wick away moisture from your skin, keeping you cool and dry. This wrist brace is also really easy to put on with one hand, as there aren’t any laces, and the straps don’t need to be threaded through loops.
This brace is excellent for any injury or condition that requires added support or complete immobilization in any direction. For example, this is often an excellent choice for a brace to help with recovery from sprains and strains, and people with carpal tunnel syndrome also find it helps provide relief of pain and inflammation. Overall, this is an extremely well-crafted wrist brace that incorporates lots of convenient features that improve the overall versatility. While it may not offer the same level of value as something like the Mueller Fitted Wrist Brace, the DP3 BioSkin Wrist Brace does have those extra convenient features that add to the quality, but you need to pay a bit more to get it.
The ActiveWrap Heat/Cold Therapy Wrist Brace looks a little more bulky than your standard wrist brace, but there is a good reason for this. The brace comes with two reusable gel packs that can be frozen or microwaved to provide heat or ice therapy. The packs fit conveniently on the inside of the brace, allowing you to wear the brace while treating your wrist with heat or ice at the same time. Lots of people like it for carpal tunnel syndrome due to the added influence of the ice packs.
Furthermore, the simple design of this wrist brace lends itself to ease-of-use, and yet the level of compression is still highly adjustable due to the Medical Plush material. When combined with heat or ice, this means that the heat or ice can be applied directly to wear you need it most.
You don’t have to use this brace with the heat/ice packs all the time. They can simply be removed and stored in the freezer (ice) or room temperature (heat) for later use. In this manner, the wrist brace will naturally slim down a bit while you wear it, relative to when you have the packs in, so it can still be used as a standard compression and stability support, especially throughout your daily activities.
Overall, this is a really interesting wrist brace because the design is fairly simple, yet well-thought out enough that it’s still convenient and effective for many different injuries or conditions, even though you may not see lots of these around. Therefore, if you know you will be needing a wrist brace for at least a while, and especially if you know you can also benefit from heat and cold therapy, then this is one of the top selections in that regard. It’s a little more expensive than normal wrist braces, but this is in part because you receive two heat/ice packs, and it’s a good all-around wrist brace.
Common Wrist Injuries
In this section we will describe some of the most common wrist injuries and how braces may help in the recovery from these injuries.
Whenever you see the word sprain (with a ‘p’), this usually implies damage to a ligament or numerous ligaments and soft tissue. Whenever you see the word strain (with a ‘t’), this usually implies damage to a muscle, commonly referred to as a torn muscle. In terms of the wrist, sprains are more common than strains.
The primary function of ligaments are to connect bones to other bones. Since the point of connection between two bones usually forms a joint, the ligaments then act as passive structures (meaning you can’t actively control, or “flex”, them) to help improve the overall stability and strength of the joint.
In terms of the wrist and hand, there are LOTS of ligaments. Some are way bigger than others, but nevertheless, they all serve their purpose in a similar way. Additionally, the ligaments that are found on the dorsal aspect (back) of your wrist and hand are often mirrored on the palmar aspect (front) of the wrist and hand. With so many ligaments in the same general area, it can be difficult to know whether or not your sprain is considered a serious concern, or if you even sprained your wrist at all (as opposed to a different injury).
Below is an image of the general wrist ligament anatomy. If you are unfamiliar with wrist anatomy, especially the ligaments, this may be a little overwhelming to try and understand. The main point to focus on here is that when the wrist goes into a position that stresses a joint, whichever ligaments are under tension are the ones that will be most likely to sustain damage. For example, if you fall on an outstretched hand (so your palm is flat on the ground and your arm is vertical from the ground), this will stretch the palmar side of your wrist. The ligaments on this side, as well as the sides of your wrist, will be placed in varying degrees of tension, while the ligaments on the back of the wrist will be slack, and therefore not likely to tear due to lack of tension/stress.
* To give you a frame of reference, the radius is the forearm bone that is on the “thumb side” of your arm, whereas the ulna is on the “pink side” of the arm. So these images are of the right hand/wrist.
Sprained wrists can be minor or severe depending on the extent of the damage. This isn’t something that most people can determine on their own, as it requires physical testing from someone like a physiotherapist. In this case, the physiotherapist will often break down the wrist sprain into three different grades.
- Grade 1 Wrist Sprains: Mild sprain causing ligaments to be stretched, but not torn.
- Grade 2 Wrist Sprains: A moderate sprain that causes partial tearing of the ligaments involved, and sometimes there can be a loss of function to a certain extent.
- Grade 3 Wrist Sprains: A severe wrist sprain that results in complete tearing of one or more ligaments. These injuries usually require significant medical treatment, and in some cases, surgery may be required.
Signs and symptoms of a wrist sprain can vary, but they typically include fairly obvious signs of injury, pain with movement, swelling, discoloration, and/or a feeling of popping or tearing inside the wrist. Any sort of fall or external force that causes your wrist to move into an unwanted position, whether its a slow movement or jarring force, is an important factor involved in sustaining a wrist sprain.
Therefore, by thinking about the mechanism of injury, how your wrist may have moved, and what sort of signs and symptoms you’re experiencing, you may be able to narrow down what sort of injury you have. However, like we mentioned before, a doctor or physiotherapist should be the one to guide you through the diagnosis process.
Braces for Sprained Wrists
So how does a brace help with a sprained wrist? First, it usually depends on what stage you are at in recovery from the injury. For example, a Grade 2 or 3 wrist sprain may require complete immobilization for a little while. A brace can be an excellent option in this case, as they are easy to put on and can be removed when you shower, and they essentially act as external ligaments, providing support for you wrist joint.
Even if your wrist doesn’t require full immobilization, a brace can help protect your wrist while it heals, especially if you’re doing any sort of activity. The external material can offer some padding and cushioning, and having some reinforcement to prevent your wrist from moving into unwanted positions during activity is a smart precaution. Again, wrist braces are easy to put on and take off, so they are fairly customizable in terms of how and when you wear them.
Many braces also have removable “stays”, which are basically more rigid inserts to control wrist flexion or extension. Having both a dorsal and a palmar stay will help immobilize your wrist, and as you progress through healing, these can be removed to offer a little more flexibility, while still offering more compression and support than without a brace.
Of course, bracing your sprained wrist likely means it has already been diagnosed as such, and you are well aware that this is in fact a sprain. However, what do you do if you just sprained your wrist and you currently do not have access to any sort of wrist brace? Check out the great tutorial below on how to properly treat a wrist that has just been sprained. This could save you a lot of pain on the way to the doctor!
A wrist fracture (or broken wrist) is definitely not something you want to fool around with. A fractures wrist often occurs along with a sprain, but you will likely notice the difference, as a fracture can be extremely painful, especially when point pressure is applied to the area.One of the most common wrist fractures is a Colle’s fracture, which occurs at the distal radius as a result of falling on an outstretched hand. This is extremely common in people with osteoporosis, and instances of Colle’s fractures often spike in the winter when conditions are icy and people are more vulnerable to falling.
A doctor or physiotherapist will be the one to diagnose your condition and prescribe a treatment plan. Sometimes braces can help with a fractured wrist by immobilizing it, but sometimes a brace isn’t enough and a fully rigid cast is required. If you think you may have fractured your wrist, don’t fool around with it and try to self-treat. You need to seek proper medical advice in order to make it the smoothest recovery possible.
Wrist tendonitis is the the inflammation of tendons that cross the wrist joint, and there are LOTS of these tendons. Your forearm contains many muscles on all sides, and these muscles all have tendons that cross the wrist and insert onto the hand, fingers, or thumb. So while your hand does have its own intrinsic muscles for fine motor control, the forearm muscles are the ones that allow you to move your fingers and wrist to a large degree.
Now, we’re going to make things a little confusing for a second. While we just defined what tendonitis is, and it is a correct definition, were are now learning that most wrist tendon conditions don’t involve too much inflammation as much as a breakdown of the fundamental components in the tissue. This usually results from repetitive long-term use.In this sense, a more accurate term to use may be tendinopathy.
Wrist tendonitis usually involves pain, but how much pain depends on how far the condition has progressed. Often times you don’t need to sustain an acute injury like a fall, but rather, it will develop slowly with time, especially if you participate in any activity that requires repetitive wrist motion. In advanced stages, one may also experience other weird sensations, like numbness or tingling, and generally speaking, the pain becomes worse with activity.
Braces don’t usually help too much for wrist tendonitis. Many people find them helpful for temporary relief of aches and pains, but the braces themselves usually don’t do too much to actually treat and cure the condition. This may not be true in all cases, so it’s best to visit a doctor or physiotherapist. Usually conditions like this can be made better with certain passive and active exercises, but this should definitely be implemented by a trained physiotherapist, rather than self-prescribed.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
We won’t dive too deep into carpal tunnel syndrome, as we have also developed an article specific to wrist braces for carpal tunnel syndrome. This is an extremely common condition of the wrist that can occur for many different reasons, and often times those who type on a keyboard for a living are more prone to developing carpal tunnel. Essentially, this is a pinched nerve in the wrist that leads to aches, pain, and stiffness, and can progress over time. Many people find wrist braces help to provide pain relief, especially while performing tasks like typing, but we will get into far more detail next article.
There are many different injuries and conditions of the wrist that can be addressed with the use of a wrist brace. The wrist braces that we reviewed above are among our favorites, and they represent many different types that you will find. Compared to many other sports medicine products, wrist braces are actually quite cheap, so having one around isn’t a bad idea. Just make sure you have a good idea of what your injury is and what is required for treatment before getting something, especially if you’re looking at something more expensive. Doctors and physiotherapists will be able to guide you through this process. We hope you feel better, and best of luck in your wrist injury or condition recovery!