When you’ve injured your shoulder, a shoulder compression sleeve can provide a host of benefits that expedite your recovery. In this post, I’ll explain how a sleeve can help, based on my knowledge as a PT, before sharing 4 of the best shoulder compression sleeves.
Treating a Shoulder Injury
Shoulder injuries vary from a pesky strain to a painful tear. Because the shoulder joint is so integral to countless everyday actions, any disruption in its mobility can be debilitating.
Common shoulder injuries can result from any of the following:
- Tearing or straining your rotator cuff
- Shoulder impingement and instability
- Dislocating the shoulder
- Damage to the cartilage in what’s called a labrum tear
- A traumatic injury such as falling on your shoulder or arm.
Depending on its severity, your injury may require surgery in order to fully heal. You may also have to wear a shoulder sling or brace for a few weeks.
As a physical therapist, I’ve helped many individuals manage shoulder pain using regular exercises and stretches. In addition to these treatments, wearing a shoulder compression sleeve has helped many of my patients manage their pain and speed up recovery after a shoulder injury or surgery.
There are several benefits to compression sleeves, such as improved blood flow, body temperature regulation, and body awareness. Let’s take a closer look at 5 ways a compression sleeve can help a shoulder injury.
What Does a Shoulder Compression Sleeve Do?
1. Improves Circulation
Made with an elastic material, shoulder compression sleeves provide a gentle amount of pressure around the shoulder. This slight compression helps draw fluid back towards the heart, improving circulation while curbing any swelling. Ideally, a compression sleeve will feel snug but not so tight as to cut off circulation from your arm or hands.
2. Aids Pain Relief
By improving blood circulation, a compression sleeve can mitigate pain. That’s because poor circulation can cause throbbing, discomfort, or generalized pain in the untreated area. A compression sleeve can help treat those symptoms and reduce pain overall.
3. Protects the Skin
It’s not uncommon for the skin around an injury to become hypersensitive. By providing a snug barrier, a compression sleeve can help protect the skin from irritation while also desensitizing the area.
4. Regulates Body Temperature
If you’ve ever seen an athlete wear a shoulder or arm sleeve, it’s possible they were using it to manage their body temperature. In both hot and cold weather, a compression sleeve can help ensure the shoulder joint stays warm but not sweaty. Most compression sleeves feature stretchy, moisture-wicking material that allows perspiration to evaporate and keeps your skin comfortably dry.
5. Increases Body Awareness
Finally, another benefit of a shoulder compression sleeve is the gentle reminder it provides to be careful with your arm. It’s easy to forget about a painful shoulder—until you reach overhead and a sharp pinch jogs your memory! By wearing a shoulder compression sleeve, you’ll be more likely to move mindfully and avoid unnecessary shoulder pain.
How To Use a Shoulder Compression Sleeve Properly
Most shoulder compression sleeves share a similar design, resembling the top of a shirt sleeve made of neoprene material. To wear one, you’ll slide your arm through the sleeve opening and fasten the strap to keep it in place.
For a proper fit, make sure the sleeve feels snug around your upper arm, with a gentle pressure applied to your shoulder joint. Many of these braces or sleeves include an adjustable strap you can wrap around your torso for additional support or comfort.
Depending on your body type, the size you select for a compression sleeve should match your typical shirt size. Otherwise, you can adjust a one-size-fits-all design using straps at the shoulder and torso to ensure a perfect fit and the most comfortable support possible.
How Long Should I Wear a Shoulder Compression Sleeve?
Similar to compression socks and other garments, you should only wear a compression sleeve during the day while you’re awake. That’s because you’ll want to monitor how your body responds to the added compression and notice any changes that may require removing the sleeve.
In general, it’s fine to wear a compression sleeve on the shoulder for multiple hours, even throughout the work day. Only don’t neglect the other aspects of caring for a shoulder injury, such as applying cold packs and performing any home exercises your therapist may have provided.
Speaking of exercises, it’s okay to work out or perform PT while wearing a shoulder compression sleeve. Your Physical Therapist may eventually want you to try performing your exercises without the external support, in order to provide an additional challenge to the shoulder.
4 Compression Sleeves for Shoulder Pain
Each of the braces in this post are relatively inexpensive, so it’s not a huge investment to make in return for some pain relief. Below are some of the highest-rated compression shoulder sleeves you can buy online.
The Sparthos compression sleeve and shoulder brace is a one-size-fits-all design, featuring two adjustable straps for torso support and upper arm/shoulder compression. Made of flexible neoprene, it can be worn directly on the skin or over clothing while still allowing for maximum breathability.
Its universal design can accommodate either shoulder and will fit an arm up to 17 inches in diameter. Customer reviews rank its adjustability as one of the best features of this brace, while others dislike that the strap lock mechanism is located under the arm.
With over 11,000 4-star reviews, this is one of the most popular and highest-rated shoulder compression sleeves online. It’s certainly worth considering if you need a good shoulder compression sleeve in a pinch.
- ✅ END THE PAIN – Dramatically reduce shoulder pain, discomfort, inflammation. Accelerate joint and tendon injury recovery – proper support,…
- ✅ SUPPORT YOU BADLY NEED! – Sparthos Shoulder Brace has been carefully engineered to stabilize and support your shoulder. Won’t restrict! It will…
In your search for a compression brace, you may come across advertisements for copper-infused braces. Contrary to some deceptive marketing, the benefits of copper are limited to decreasing smells; as a material, copper does not provide any additional healing property for braces or compression sleeves!
However, odor elimination can be a beneficial feature, especially if you’ll be wearing your sleeve every day for a few weeks. As a result most sleeves will start to smell, so a copper-infused brace can help reduce that odor in between washings.
This Copper Compression sleeve, made of copper-infused material, also employs a one-size-fits-all design with a cross-body strap for additional support. Similar to most braces and sleeves, the strap runs across the torso and under the opposite arm, which can cause chafing and discomfort when worn directly on the skin.
Most of the users who experienced relief with the sleeve attribute their success to a combination of wearing the brace, resting, and performing shoulder exercises prescribed by their physical therapist or physician. I want to be clear: any copper-infused brace or sleeve, including this one, will not provide any additional medical benefit other than possibly smelling less than other sleeves.
As one of the most popular shoulder sleeves on Amazon with a price point around $30, it might be worth a look if you’ve been experiencing shoulder pain.
- MAXIMUM COPPER ADVANTAGE: Achieve lasting relief and peak performance. Whether you are living with a chronic condition or chasing personal bests,…
- Copper Compression Shoulder Brace – Compression + stability support your body during all activities. 4-Way stretch construction enhances your…
Don’t let the odd name keep you from considering this shoulder brace, which has earned over 9,000 positive reviews. Like the aforementioned options, the Babo Care brace is a one-size-fits-all sleeve that uses a cross-body strap to adjust the tension and shoulder compression.
But unlike other units, this brace is designed so that the plastic loop for adjusting the strap is located on the front of the brace instead of near the armpit. It’s a small but important difference that may result in a more comfortable fit throughout the day.
The biggest complaint I’ve seen with this brace involves the velcro straps, which tend to become loose from excessive shoulder movement. For some, this weakness might be a good thing, helping you remember to avoid moving your shoulder in a too-wide range of motion.
At a price point of about $20, the Babo brace is worth a look, and the plethora of reviews can help you determine if it’s right for you.
- Pressure Pad for Ice/Heat: We’ve designed a pressure pad to hold the ice pack in place so you can use physical therapy, ice, and heat to relieve…
- Extra Shoulder Support: The brace provides support and compression to reduce soreness, sprains, and pain while stabilizing your arms and shoulders…
Zenkeys may not be a familiar brand to you, but their shoulder brace has garnered an impressive following. In light of its 8,000+ positive reviews, I had to find out what made it unique.
First, this brace comes in multiple sizes from small/medium to 2-3XL, allowing you to attain a closer, more customized fit. Although one-size-fits-all sleeves are convenient and commonplace, they are also susceptible to sizing issues for many of their reviewers. So if you’re looking for a great-fitting sleeve, and you tend to be on the smaller or larger side of average, you might prefer to choose your own size.
Secondly, this sleeve is designed to accommodate a hot or cold pack, sold separately. To capitalize on this thermotherapy benefit, you’d simply slide the hot/cold gel pack into the top of the sleeve and use the straps to affix it to your shoulder.
For a sleeve that can provide steady compression, a closer fit, and thermotherapy capabilities, don’t overlook this Zenkeyz shoulder brace.
- PAIN RELIEF: Our protectors apply compression to the shoulder to help alleviate the pain from common injuries, including Torn Rotator cuff, Dislocated…
- COMFORTABLE WEAR: Every day or night time wear, our shoulder immobilizers are soft on the skin and can be worn over or under clothes. The front and…
Although shoulder compression sleeves can provide relief for shoulder pain in some cases, you should always first consult your doctor or physical therapist to understand the underlying cause of your shoulder pain. In combination with prescribed medication and physical therapy, a shoulder compression sleeve can be a great tool for managing pain as your shoulder recovers.