A knee injury isn’t only painful, it can also be quite scary. The knees are the foundation of your legs and they carry most of your weight when standing up, so having them injured and not working properly can understandably leave you more than a little nervous.
Depending on the seriousness of the injury, it may require you to undergo physical therapy to improve your range of motion, increase strength, and reduce the pain throughout recovery. Beyond that, some medical professionals may recommend using a knee brace.
But there has been some debate whether a knee brace is beneficial or only detrimental to the knee joints and the muscles and tendons around it.
While some doctors say they help speed up recovery because they decrease pain and limit your range of motion, others say that the limitations it provides only causes harm because constantly having external support for a long period of time weakens the muscles supporting the knee.
There aren’t enough studies to support either of these theories, so you might want to consult your doctor regarding the matter.
What is a Knee Brace and what are its functions
The function of a knee brace depends on the specific problem that it’s trying to help solve. There are different types of knee braces the target specific issues, like arthritis or injuries from sports.
A knee brace can help keep your kneecap in place while walking, running, or any physical activity to stop it from incurring any further injury, and it can also help stabilize your knee joint, limiting its range of motion for faster recovery from injury and surgery. In some minor cases, like a fracture, wearing a knee brace is one of the first treatments to be given to a patient.
The Types of Knee Brace
There are various types of knee brace according to their purpose.
This keeps the knee joint from moving and protects it from further injury. This is usually worn by patients who are still suffering from the injury and helps keep things in place while the knee is healing. It has similarities to a plaster cast, except this can be removed every now and then to allow movement and ventilation during recovery.
A knee immobilizer can also be used after a major injury or surgery around the knee.
This brace extends from the shin to the thigh, with metal support bars on the sides that cause the immobilization. Because of its nature, knee immobilizers always have Velcro straps that hold the brace in place.
This kind of brace is usually prescribed to patients after ACL surgery because it aids in stabilizing the knee. Just like a knee immobilizer, it has straps that wrap around the leg and covers the thigh and the shin, and it has metal struts on the inside and outside of the knee joint for a more stabilizing support.
The only difference between a knee immobilizer and a Bledsoe brace is that the latter has a small locking mechanism which allows the knee to bend a little when unlocked, and keeps it in a completely straight position when locked, not allowing any movement.
After the surgery, it is advised to keep the knee in a locked straight position to protect the healing ligaments. Once recovery starts and you can put more pressure on the ligament, the mechanism can be changed to have more allowance so the knee can move a little.
Patella Control Brace
These are usually neoprene sleeves worn over the affected knee to provide compression. It has a small hole that is meant to sit on the kneecap (patella) to hold it in position when walking, running, and other physical activities.
The patella control brace is usually prescribed to patients who dislocated their kneecap or suffer conditions like arthritis, patellofemoral stress syndrome, or chondromalacia patella.
Motion Control Brace
A motion control brace is another sleeve type knee brace. It is recommended to people who have sprained or overstretched their ligaments around the knee. It has metal supports on the inside and outside of the knee area, similar to knee immobilizers. It also provides extra support for athletic activity that usually puts more pressure on the sides of the knees.
Do I need a knee brace?
If you have injured your knee or have recurring pain, a good knee brace may help support and protect it from being injured or reduce the pain so you can function normally.
However, wearing a knee brace for an extended period of time may lead to the muscles and tendons around the knee to weaken because of disuse, so it’s recommended to do exercises that strengthen the hips, knees, and ankles. If you have specific questions or doubts about wearing a knee brace, discuss this with your doctor.