How To Choose a Knee Brace
Knee pain can be a distressing condition with a variety of causes. Often a combination of professional care along with some at-home remedies can effectively manage or reduce symptoms of common
knee conditions. Perhaps you have been diagnosed with osteoarthritis of the knee
and require some extra support for daily activities, or, you may be experiencing general, mild knee pain while exercising. Amidst a sea of knee brace product choices, how do you know which one is right for you? Knowing what types of knee braces and supports are available and the functions they perform can help simplify the process. Always seek professional medical advice before attempting self-care.
Knee Brace Materials
Knee brace materials play an important role in knee brace function and support level, with certain materials featuring therapeutic qualities. Thermal fabrics can offer therapeutic qualities and soothe sore tissues while offering support. Common thermal materials include:
- Neoprene - a common knee brace fabric that is designed to lend support through compression, and also provides heat retention which can promote healing and soothe injured tissues. Neoprene is often used on light to medium support level sleeves, soft braces and wraps but can also be incorporated as lining for firmer supports.
- Neoprene Alternative - Some people experience irritation or allergy to neoprene braces, and there are a variety of non-neoprene braces available. ThermoSkin has developed a moisture-wicking, breathable material that encases the neoprene layer so that the neoprene never touches the skin.
- Moisture-wicking - In cases where heat retention is not desired or Neoprene allergies are a concern, look for brace materials that offer cool, moisture-wicking, breathable fabrics. Non-thermal braces and supports are often preferred for athletes and those seeking support for longer periods of wear. Other breathable fabrics to choose from include:
- Elastic - Supportive fabric offering support with "give" with varying support levels.
- Foam - Lightweight and strong, foam can be used in light to firm support braces.
- Nylon - Supportive and stretchy, nylon is used primarily in wraps and bands.
- Spandex - Spandex offers flexible and supportive material ideal for knee sleeves.
- Synthetic blends - From neoprene blends to moisture-wicking blends, synthetics offer a variety of benefits.
- Aluminum/Metal frames - Rigid knee braces offer firm support, and some are crafted from aircraft-grade aluminum or other metals.
- Composite/Plastic frames - Composite and plastic frames provide firm, lightweight support.
Types of Knee Braces and Supports
A quality, well-designed knee brace that is properly fitted can offer comfortable support and sometimes encourage faster recovery. Braces can also serve to support and correct deformities or to align body structures for functional improvement. Some common types of knee braces include:
- Hinged knee braces - feature lateral (side) hinges that are typically covered in material and provide moderate to maximum support. Hinged knee braces provide support through protected and controlled joint motion and are a feature common to a variety of types of braces. Hinges may be locked into place to limit range of motion and can be helpful for: ligament injuries (ACL, MCL, LCL, PCL) and tears; meniscal tears; post-operative recovery; knee sprains; stabilizing weakened ligaments during intense activity/sports.
- Removable hinges - Some braces offer removable hinges as recovery progresses and less support is needed.
- Knee Braces with Stays - Stays are rigid supports sewn into the brace, usually along the side of the brace and provide a flexible, extra level of stability and support. Stays may be stainless steel or plastic, and function similarly to hinges, but can offer both medial and/or lateral support with less movement restriction. They can be found on a variety of brace types. Some knee braces offer removable stays to allow for a variable support level.
- Soft knee braces - Soft knee braces can offer support and compression for mild injuries, or firmer support with hinges or stays concealed inside the fabric for comfortable wear. Soft knee braces are usually used for various mild knee conditions and indications such as: knee bursitis, mild osteoarthritis, mild to moderate ligament injuries, meniscal injuries, and mild to moderate sprains.
- Rigid knee braces - These braces are helpful in stabilizing and immobilizing the knee, usually after surgery or for acute injuries that need firm support and stabilization. Often hinged or with stays, rigid braces can be helpful for ligament injuries, post-surgical recovery, and more severe cases of osteoarthritis.
- Knee bands - Knee bands or straps are placed just below the patella (knee cap) and provide targeted compression for knee conditions that may benefit from pressure relief, particularly patellar tendonitis (Jumper's Knee) and patellar pain.
- Knee wraps - Wraps provide mild to moderate support and basic protection, ease of application, and adjustable compression. Wraps can include other therapeutic features like magnets or thermal or cold therapy for a convenient, hands-free way to ice or warm the knee. They can be helpful for mild osteoarthritis, mild ligament injuries, knee tendonitis, and other mild to moderate knee pain conditions.
- Knee sleeves - The pull-on style of application make knee sleeves a convenient choice. Depending on the construction material, sleeves are helpful for providing compressive therapy to aching joints, and can offer light to moderate support for mild osteoarthritis, tendonitis, and overuse conditions. Some sleeves offer reinforcements around the patella opening providing extra support for knee ligament and patellar conditions. Compression helps aid swelling and edema and provides a feeling of security.
- Knee Pads -Pads provide protection during sports and athletic activities, and also offer some light, compressive support.
Braces for Knee Conditions
Advancements in sports medicine have led to improvements in knee brace features and performance. Braces are available to help protect, stabilize, and support the knee during healing and recovery from injuries and surgery, but also for specific conditions. Patella Stabilizers
range from mild to firm support, and usually feature a built-in buttress around the patella opening to stabilize and align patella movement. Patella stabilizers can come in various application styles such as wraps that allow adjustable compression, and can also feature hinges or stays. Find braces for:
help in the recovery of injuries to the medial, lateral, anterior, and posterior cruciate ligaments- some of the most common sports-related injuries. Some ligament braces may worn all day for supporting daily activities with light to firm movement restriction, while other types of ligament bracing features medial and lateral bars with varying hinge or strap designs that are more suited for wear during athletic activities.
Osteoarthritis knee braces
offer specialized support for the arthritic knee joint. Osteoarthritis (OA) braces can range from light support for everyday activities or more substantial, firm support for more advanced cases. OA bracing, also known as unloader bracing, re-distributes weight, or unloads weight, off of the knee joint for easier, less painful joint movement.
For lighter osteoarthritis support, look for compression sleeves in a neoprene or thermal material that promotes circulation and soothing warmth. Some braces even offer magnets to further promote circulation and healing.
Post-operative knee braces and knee immobilizers
offer firm, stabilizing support for the post-operative knee or for serious injuries where movement must be restricted to promote healing. Restriction can range from lighter range of motion restriction to complete movement restriction. Some post-operative knee braces are rigid, can feature hinges, and often feature adjustable compression and straps for easier application.
Knee braces for other knee pain conditions
can be helpful in managing pain and promoting healing. Find bracing for:
Dr. Tracy's Recommended Knee Pain Products
- Knee Pain Gels Provide warmth or cooling and promote circulation for targeted relief.
- Knee Magnetic Therapy has been known by some to increase blood flow to tissues, reducing pain.
- Hot Knee Wraps provide soothing warmth to the knee and increases blood flow and circulation to the area. Helps reduce pain and loosen stiff and achy joints.
- Knee Massage Products can provide soothing, targeted relief by increasing circulation and keeping muscles and tissues flexible and relaxed. Hand held massagers are a convenient way to apply massage to the knee.
- Cold Knee Wraps soothe irritated and inflamed areas and can help reduce swelling. Ice is a part of the RICE system for treatment (Rest, Ice Compression and Elevation).
- Exercise assists in keeping the knee muscles strong, and helps improve knee range of motion.
- Balance Boards help retrain injured knee ligaments which may improve recovery time and outcome.
Need help selecting a knee brace? Our customer service representatives are ready to assist you! Call us toll free at 1-888-498-8587, Monday-Thursday 8AM-6PM CST and Friday 9AM-5PM CST
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