Are you considering bracing for knee pain? If you’re feeling limited by your knee pain, this can be an option to increase stability and support for expedited healing. Knee bracing is commonly used for:
- Meniscus tears.
- Ligament sprains.
- Patellofemoral stress syndrome.
- Patellar tendonitis.
- Instability caused by ligament tears.
- Post-operation recovery.
The first thing to know about embracing knee bracing is that not all knee braces are the same. For most people, selecting a knee brace with help from a musculoskeletal expert is recommended to ensure that the proper product is being selected based on the specifics of the knee injury being treated. If your care provider has recommended reflex treatment, an offloading knee brace is usually suggested. However, compression and support braces can also be appropriate in some cases.
What Is an Offloading Knee Brace?
An offloading knee brace is designed to help you restore realignment at the back of the leg. In addition, the fit of the brace actually helps to reduce the pressure that is normally applied to the worn area of your knee joint. Here’s the rundown on unloader braces:
- When the brace reduces pressure at the worn knee joint, you get immediate pain relief.
- It’s possible to be active while wearing an unloader brace.
- The brace can even help to stop progressive wear and tear on your knee joint with regular wear.
Offloading knee braces are often recommended for people who are trying to heal and strengthen their knees. The pressure reduction offered by this design gives the knee a chance to recover without consistent and repetitive strain and pressure. In most cases, this is the type of brace that is recommended for people suffering from long-term knee issues.
What Is a Supportive Knee Brace?
A supportive knee brace is used when rehabilitating a knee. Unlike an offloading knee brace, it’s not intended to shift weight for the sake of allowing you to remain active. In fact, supportive braces are designed to stabilize your knee while limiting your range of movement. The goal is to avoid any fast, sudden pressure that could stop the healing process in its tracks. Supportive braces are often used immediately after an injury has occurred. They are also commonly prescribed to help people keep pressure off of their knees following surgery. While a supportive knee brace does hinder movement, it provides stability to ensure that the knee stays in proper relation to the rest of the body.
What Is a Compression Knee Brace?
Compression braces are becoming popular as more and more people discover the general benefits of compression. In fact, they are commonly used for both recovery and protection. Here’s a glance at some of the benefits of compression knee braces:
- They help to stabilize the knee joint.
- They can reduce joint swelling.
- They can prevent pain during physical activity.
The mechanics behind why a compression brace “feels so good” are relatively simple. The compression of the brace against your skin helps to limit blood flow to the area. In addition to reducing swelling, this reduces sensation in the area to allow you to move your knee more freely without pain. Of course, excessive compression is not good for the joint. You can actually cause damage by limiting circulation excessively. This is why it’s essential to make sure that your compression brace is properly fitted for your knee. You should also discuss the best practices for wearing a compression knee brace with a musculoskeletal expert. This means going over things like how many hours a day to wear your brace, how many days per week it’s necessary to wear a brace, which activities are appropriate for bracing and how long you should wear a compression brace in total.
If you’re looking for a more discreet way to wear a compression brace, moving to a compression band may be a better option. While the two are often spoken of interchangeably, a compression band is much thinner and lighter than a brace. A compression band may actually be a more appropriate option over an actual brace if you’re simply looking for support to enhance muscle performance during workouts instead of seeking a tool for healing a knee injury. In studies, bracing during workouts has been linked with better performance and shorter recovery times.
Choosing the Right Knee Brace
The big thing to remember is that you never want to be in a position of doing more harm than good by using the wrong tool for trying to heal your knee. Again, this is why working with a musculoskeletal expert is so highly recommended. What’s more, bracing alone may not do much to actually heal the root cause of your knee pain. Bracing can produce much better results when used in conjunction with actual manual therapies, stretches and exercises designed to restore joint function, eliminate inflammation and ensure that the joint is interacting properly with surrounding muscles and tissues. In some cases, what could take months to heal with a brace alone could be helped significantly with one manual treatment. Here’s a look at the important details to remember when selecting a brace:
- Lightweight: Choose a brace that is lightweight. Carrying around a heavy brace can create imbalances in your leg that lead to additional injuries or misalignments.
- Mobility: Choosing a brace that restricts movement too drastically could be dangerous. Ensure that you can maintain a safe reaction time when wearing your brace!
- Purpose: Don’t assume that “just any” brace will help you. Wearing a compression brace when what you really need is stability could cause pain and swelling.
- Adjustable Features: Try to find a brace that allows you to adjust the fit. As the temperature fluctuates, your joints will also expand and contract. That means that a brace that feels loose on a cool day may “choke” your joint on a hot day.
It’s also important to be patient when getting accustomed to your new knee brace. Don’t assume that you will be able to wear the brace for long periods of time right away. After all, the brace is essentially “retraining” your joint. Start by wearing the joint for a few minutes while walking around inside your house. This will give you a chance to get used to walking with the brace on in familiar terrain. Wearing the brace for shorter increments of time will give your body a chance to adjust to the pressure of the brace. You can then work your way up to wearing the brace for several hours without taking it off. It’s normal for there to be discomfort when you first get used to wearing a brace. As your joint is being trained, the surrounding muscles, ligaments and tendons are also being moved to accommodate for the joint changes.
Can I Just Buy a Knee Brace Without Asking a Doctor?
Technically, yes. There are many different types of knee braces for sale. However, this is a big decision to make without asking a musculoskeletal expert. It’s very easy to injure your knee by not using the right brace with the proper fit. It’s important to discuss if you really need a brace. Next, you’ll need to decide which type of brace is appropriate for the specific pain or injury that you have. You should also have a plan in place for how frequently you’ll wear your brace. Lastly, there are many stretches and exercises that can be done to help your knee joint heal faster to avoid further injury down the road.
If you’re wondering if a knee brace can help you to heal your knee joint, the Integrative Physical Health team can help you learn more about this treatment method. We’ll take a look at the situation from a holistic perspective to help you get thorough, complete healing and pain relief. Call us today for a consultation!