A knee brace can help provide relief from chronic knee pain caused as a result of knee injuries and in patients with knee osteoarthritis.
What is a Knee Brace?
Knee braces are supports that you wear for a painful or injured knee. Some people use them to prevent knee injuries during sports. Braces are made from combinations of metal, foam, plastic, elastic material, and straps. They come in many sizes, colors, and designs.
Types of Knee Braces and Supports
Functional Knee Braces
These give support to knees that have been injured in the past. Athletes often wear them after a major injury has healed. They stabilize the knee and control motion to prevent another injury.
Rehabilitative Knee Braces
These are usually used for a period of weeks right after an injury or surgery. They keep the knee stable but still allow limited movement while it is healing. Some doctors haven’t seen a benefit from these braces and no longer recommend them.
Unloader Knee Braces
These are designed to relieve pain in people who have arthritis in their knees. They shift the weight (“unload” it) from the damaged area of the knee to a stronger area.
Prophylactic Knee Braces
These are designed to protect knees from injuries during contact sports such as football. They have become popular among athletes. Research has not proven that they work, but studies are ongoing.
These are not technically braces, but they are the most common type of knee support. They are designed to provide compression around the knee joint. This helps support the knee and can control pain and swelling.
Knee Braces and Knee Arthritis
In the knee joint, arthritis can occur at any of three points where the bones come in contact:
Underneath the kneecap.
Between the thigh bone (femur) and shin bone (tibia) on the inside of the leg.
Between the thigh and shin bones on the outside of the leg.
The goal of a knee brace for arthritis patients is to provide support for the knee, and in doing so, to decrease pain and improve function.
Braces may provide some compression and support to the soft tissues around the knee. Wearing a brace may improve proprioception [knowing where you are in relation to things around you]. Braces may allow people to feel more comfortable exercising, and there is evidence that exercise and strengthening help to treat the symptoms of knee arthritis.”
Knee Braces and Exercise
Knee braces are the least important part of preventing knee injuries or getting better after an injury. Even with a knee brace on, you could still injure your knee. Stretching, strengthening and technique improvement are much more important.
You should make changes in intensity or training schedules little by little, to limit knee stress. Good strength and flexibility are important for holding down knee pain and injuries. You should work out an exercise plan with your doctor to get the best program for you. Don’t let a knee brace become a “crutch.”
Frequently Asked Questions By Knee Brace Users
How do I care for my knee brace?
Knee braces often get damaged during normal use. You should inspect your brace often for wear and tear. Regular cleaning with soap and water is good for the brace fabric. Exposed metal should be covered to protect others from injury. A worn-out brace should be replaced for maximum benefit. More durable materials may cost more, but the brace might last longer.
Should I wear a knee brace all day?
If the specialist gives you the okay, you can wear your brace all day. But be sure to follow the directions of your knee pain specialist because the improper use of a knee brace can worsen your pain and cause further damage to your knee. Knee braces that immobilize your knee can weaken it.
Does a knee brace go over or underpants?
If you have a cotton-lycra knee sleeve or tight leggings that are not slippery, you can wear your functional knee brace over your pants. Non-functional knee braces such as the knee immobilizer can be worn over pants if necessary because they do not allow the knee to bend.