Knee Braces

Knee Braces Are Used To Support An Injured Or Painful Knee

Knee braces can be used to protect the knee from injury or re-injury, limit motion and provide stability for healing after surgery or an injury and to remove weight from the joint. While some are used for warmth and mild support, others provide precise control with high levels of support and even reverse pressure from knee arthritis.

knee braces

Almost 40 percent of injuries to the knee involve damage to ligaments. Most of these involve the anterior cruciate ligament. Due to neuromuscular, anatomical and hormonal factors, women suffer ligament damage more than men. A good functional knee brace provides the best stability and is an important part in managing recovery from these injuries.

Some of the more popular knee braces are sleeve types that slip on and are often made of neoprene. Depending on the quality of design, these can provide warmth, compression and increase position sense awareness. Generally, these are for more minor conditions or early stages of arthritis.

Because the knee is the strongest and largest of all the joints, bracing may require supports that offer significant mechanical advantage. Providing protection for demanding physical activities requires more than a simple sleeve.

Knee Braces For Arthritis

traction brace for knee arthritis

While there are many types of arthritis, osteoarthritis is a common problem of the knee. It is a progressive degenerative condition that is caused by wear and tear or overt trauma and often related to age. It can be caused by years of undue stress to the joint and can be a genetic factor. Regardless of the causes, it produces inflammation, instability, and pain. This pain can make everyday activities a challenge; things like walking or climbing stairs can be particularly troublesome as the joint gradually stiffens. Pieces of cartilage and bone spurs can cause the joint to lock up.

Braces are often used as part of a conservative therapeutic management for knee arthritis. The amount of support is usually related to the amount of degeneration, pain and instability. In cases where there is significant deterioration of the joint, the wearing of cartilage causes the bones to approximate and narrow, especially when weight bearing. This loading of the joint causes pain and further inflammation and damage. If the condition progresses to a point where the pain level is high and functional ability is deteriorated, surgery may be necessary for repair or replacement.

While pull on braces are very popular for early stages of arthritis, advanced conditions often respond well to unloading or traction type braces that work to decompress the joint. This can help reduce pain, increase ability to function and decrease medication use.

  • A 2015 study in The Knee Journal indicated a brace that unloads the knee for those with arthritis requiring surgery can improve knee related symptoms.

Knee Braces For Muscle Weakness

Knee bracing may help in rehabilitation of weak muscles from a nerve injury, herniated disc or stroke. These conditions may alter the biomechanical aspects of walking allowing the knee to become unstable. A stabilizing knee brace can help provide support during rehab and in daily activities.

Braces can effect the sensory system allowing an improved feedback system and better knee control. A stabilizing brace can also help with motion training during daily activities as well as pain relief by preventing involuntary movement.

Knee & Back Pain

Knee-spine syndrome is acknowledged in the scientific literature. Decreasing lumbar spine curve leads to increasing thigh muscle tension with knee flexion while standing, which can increase lower back pain and patellofemoral joint pain in the knee. Conversely, back pain symptoms may be caused or aggravated by degenerated changes in the knee. Those with flat back posture or loss of the normal lordosis display anterior or forward displacement of the center of gravity, creating instability and increases the biomechanical demands of walking and standing.

Sometimes the knee diagnosis is obvious; severe arthritis, ligament tears…, however; when there is a non-conclusive diagnosis with sub-acute or chronic knee pain, it is important to evaluate the musculoskeletal chain for related problems. The foot and ankle, as well as the hip and lower back can contribute factors in chronic knee pain. By addressing these as soon as possible, treatment can be more effective and more serious problems may be averted in some cases.

Useful Tips:

  • A 2019 study in the journal Gait & Posture indicates a strategy for those with knee arthritis, demonstrating reduced medial compartment pressure by having the toe out foot position when standing from a sitting position. Depending on the extent and location of the arthritis, experimenting with toe in and toe out positioning may reduce pain and further damage.
  • A 2020 Seminars in Arthritis and Rheumatism retrospective analysis on knee arthritis found that hyaluronic acid injections produced lower total medical care costs, fewer adverse events, with lower costs and use of prescription analgesics than corticosteroid injections and knee arthroplasty.
  • A 2020 study in Biomed Research International found an association between foot posture and knee arthritis. The authors indicated when the feet are not symmetrical, this can lead to postural instability that effects the center of pressure and can significantly impact rehabilitation. Evaluation for wedge insoles to correct foot posture imbalance is important for knee problems.
  • To make sleeping more comfortable, there are knee pillows and leg pillows that can help take pressure off the knees, especially when side sleeping. These products also help prevent lower back strain as well.

Author Bio

Stephen Ornstein, D.C. has treated thousands of neck, shoulder and back conditions since graduating Sherman Chiropractic College in 1987 and during his involvement in Martial Arts. He holds certifications as a Peer Review Consultant from New York Chiropractic College, Physiological Therapeutics from National Chiropractic College, Modic Antibiotic Spinal Therapy from Dr. Hanne Albert, PT., MPH., Ph.D., Myofascial Release Techniques from Logan Chiropractic College, and learned Active Release Technique from the founder, P. Michael Leahy, DC, ART, CCSP.