Splints and Braces: Understanding the Difference

April 13, 2023

splints and braces boot

Many use the terms “splint” and “brace” interchangeably, but they are actually two different types of medical devices. It is essential for healthcare workers and therapists to understand the difference in order to treat their patients effectively. The following provides an overview of splints and braces, including their different uses and benefits.  

What is the Difference Between a Splint and a Brace? 

Both splints and braces are commonly used on the foot and ankle, knee, hand and wrist, elbow, shoulder, or spine. However, there are some key differences in functionality and usage between the two devices.  

A splint is an orthopedic device that immobilizes an injured joint or limb to promote healing and prevent further injury or damage. Depending on the severity of the injury or condition, they can be either rigid or soft. A rigid splint consists of a firm material such as metal or plastic while a soft splint is made from foam or fabric.  

Braces are also used to help stabilize injured body parts, but they are typically more flexible than splints as they are designed to offer support through compression rather than complete immobilization. Braces are usually made of softer materials such as neoprene or cotton and consist of straps, elastic bands, or metal frames.  

Splint or Brace – Which is Better?  

Generally, if you need complete immobilization then a rigid splint is recommended. If you require only partial immobilization, then a soft splint or a brace may be more suitable. This is because soft splints and braces promote daily activities while limiting and controlling unwanted motion. Additionally, if you suffer from a chronic condition such as arthritis or carpal tunnel, a brace may be more beneficial than a rigid splint as it allows you to retain mobility while still providing stabilization and support.  

Whether a splint or a brace is best still depends on your specific situation, however. For example, those suffering from carpal tunnel may still need a rigid splint for acute phases of carpal tunnel syndrome or for post-operative treatment of carpal tunnel release surgery.  

The type of device depends on the type and severity of the injury being treated, and it is always best to consult with a doctor or healthcare professional when deciding on the type of treatment needed for an injury or condition.  

How Long Should You Wear a Splint or Brace?  

The length of time you should wear your splint or brace depends on the injury or condition being treated. Ultimately, it is up to your healthcare provider to provide specific instructions in regard to which type of device to use and how long it should be worn.  

Choosing a Splint or Brace 

While both splints and braces provide stability by immobilizing and supporting certain body parts, they each do so in different ways. Choosing a particular splint or brace also highly depends on your particular needs and concerns, such as breathability, footdrop prevention, wound and skin protection, or pressure management.  

Understanding the differences between these two types of devices as well as the options available for each can help you and your healthcare provider make informed decisions about treatment plans and find the most effective solutions for your individual needs.  

AliMed offers a wide assortment of Splints and Braces—from post-op to rehab for adults and pediatrics.   



AliMed, Inc. is a manufacturer and distributor of medical supply products, and is not a medical authority. The contents contained in this article, including text, graphics, imagery, and other materials, are for informational and educational purposes only. AliMed does not provide or intend to provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, and the information contained here should not be treated as such. If you have questions about a specific medical condition or specific personal use of a medical device, always consult your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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