Knee joint, one of the most important weight bearing joints in your body, is often vulnerable to injuries and joint disorders. The muscles and ligaments supporting the knee joint, need to be strong, supple and in good condition. This enables them to sustain knee movements and activities without getting strained.
Sometimes, when the knee has suffered injuries or is affected by joint conditions, the muscles, ligaments and surrounding tissues may lack the strength and flexibility required for normal activities. While these tissues need to be built up with appropriate exercises and physiotherapy, the knee may need to be supported while performing activities that exert pressure on the knees.
What Are Knee Braces?
Knee braces are the aids to be worn around the knee area to support a damaged knee joint while moving or performing weight bearing activities.1 Knee braces may be required in case of injured or painful knee that got hurt during particular movements. These are mainly used with the aim to provide stability to the knee, which may be compromised due to damage to the joint, weakened muscles or ligaments and any condition affecting the joint.
When To Use Knee Braces?
The purpose of knee braces is to provide support and stability to the knee that needs support to aid healing or prevent further damage to the knee joint or ligaments.
Knee Brace For Knee Injuries: Knee braces are useful in case of injuries like ruptured ligaments, viz. anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), medial or lateral collateral ligaments, partial tears of ligaments or sprained knee, medical and lateral meniscus injuries. Such injuries can cause knee buckling or lead to instability and need support while healing occurs.
- Knee Brace for Arthritis: Joint conditions like knee arthritis, osteoarthritis, pain in front of the knee or conditions involving the kneecap, damage to the cartilage under the kneecap, runner’s knee or any condition that causes knee pain may warrant the use of arthritis knee brace.2
- Knee Brace During Post Surgical Period: In certain cases, damage to the knee joint may have to be repaired surgically. Knee braces may be advised during the post operative period or during rehabilitation phase so as to allow time for tissue healing. Surgeries performed for degenerated or injured knee joints may have a longer recovery period and using appropriate knee braces can provide adequate support, avoid further damage and help in rehabilitation.
- Prophylactic Knee Brace: Sometimes, knee braces may be advised as a preventive measure, especially for persons at an increased risk of knee injury or damage. For example, after a previous ligament injury, for ligament protection in certain knee deformities or in sports persons involved in running, skiing, volleyball etc.
- Sportspersons may use knee braces for running, which aid in supporting and reducing pain. Some studies suggest that knee braces for skiing may help in preventing further ligament injuries especially in those who have undergone previous ACL reconstruction surgery. Knee braces for volleyball can provide cushion effect while diving, reduce pain and prevent repeated knee injuries. Knee braces for basketball are specially designed considering the need for different knee movements and provide support, reduce shock and risk of extended injury.
What Are The Types Of Knee Braces?
Knee braces are available in various forms, designs, colors and sizes. These are made of varying material like combinations of plastic, metal, elastic and foam. These may be advised for a short period or for use during particular movements, depending on the condition. Based on the purpose of use, there are functional braces, rehabilitative braces and prophylactic braces.
Based on the support level, some knee braces are classified as basic knee braces – required for some basic knee support; advanced knee braces – offer moderate support during forceful activities; elite knee braces – provide excellent stability and prevents knee buckling and knee pads – for protecting knees when kneeling.
Based On Joint Conditions, Some Knee Braces Are Categorized Into:
- Arthritis knee braces designed to provide relief from symptoms of arthritis.
- ACL knee braces, which are hinged to support knee and prevent ligament injuries or help in recovery of ACL tear.
- Sports knee brace or knee supports meant for recovery from sports injuries or patella conditions.
- Post-operative knee braces that enable immobilization of knee after surgery.
Based On Style And Design, Knee Braces Are Of Varying Types. Some include:
- Hinged knee braces to protect in case of ligament injuries and provide range of motion.
- Hinge-free knee braces to provide flexibility, support and relief from knee pain during movement.
- Pull up knee braces that can be simply pulled up on knees for support and compression.
- Knee braces with Knee straps to provide relief in anterior knee pain, Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS), runner’s knee and support the tendon.
- Magnetic knee braces that have in-built magnets to promote healing.
- Neoprene knee braces that retain heat; reduce discomfort and swelling.
How To Use Knee Braces?
There are a variety of knee braces for different knee conditions. With regards to your knee condition and the purpose of using a knee brace, it is advisable to follow your physician’s advice. Also, it is worth learning about the proper use, the technique of wearing and removing, washing, cleaning and maintenance of the knee braces from the expert.
Various products of knee braces are available from some well-known brands like Donjoy, Ace, McDavid, Mueller, Neo G and Thermoskin. Your physician can guide you to choose the best fit for you.
Benefits of Knee Brace
Studies have shown that while some types of braces are beneficial in helping with the symptoms of pain and discomfort after an injury and even protect the knee from injuries to some extent but not all braces have been shown to be effective. The exact mechanism of working of a knee brace is still not very clear, but in general the types of braces which have been shown to be effective are the functional knee braces, rehabilitative knee braces and the unloader knee braces. It is also seen that some people seem to benefit more with the braces than others for no known reason. In some cases, the risk of injuries have shown to increase with the use of a brace, but most of the people who have used a knee brace at some point or the other do feel that they were of help to some extent.
Are Exercises Required After Knee Braces Are Advised?
Exercises are an integral part of development and maintenance of the knee joint and its supporting structures. While knee braces are meant for supporting the knee, knee exercises are necessary to make the knee strong enough to support itself and be less dependent on artificial aids.
It is important to continue with therapeutic exercises that focus on knee strengthening, stretching and improving range of motion. Proper warm-up and cool-down exercises before and after sports activities should also be performed. Activities or sports should be resumed gradually depending on the improvement in the knee joint and as advised by your physician.
Are Knee Braces Affordable?
When it comes to the cost most of the braces are affordable and low at cost, but there are some types of braces whose price may run to hundreds of dollars and may require insurance coverage to buy them, but that does not mean that they are the best brace.
How to Take Care of the Knee Brace?
It is also important to take care of the brace as normal wear and tear of the brace can damage it. The brace should be cleaned with soap and water regularly. If there are metallic supports to the brace then they should be covered. If the brace has worn out or is quite old then it is best to replace it.