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SHOULD I WEAR A KNEE BRACE WHEN I HAVE KNEE PAIN?

knee brace blog

Do you wear a knee brace for a painful knee injury that is interfering with your everyday activities, exercise routine, or sports?

Well, you’re not alone. The good news is that knee bracing and good physical therapy exercises can improve your pain and help you move again!

Doctors and physical therapists often recommend knee bracing to alleviate and help knee pain. Knee braces are usually comfortable and readily available, but when are they most helpful?

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When is bracing your knee a good idea? That's an excellent question, one that patients ask me regularly.

You may try bracing your knee if you’re looking to:

  • Lessen pain
  • Manage swelling
  • Support the knee after an injury; sprain, ligament injury, or torn meniscus
  • Manage a chronic condition like osteoarthritis or inflammatory flare ups 
  • Stabilize an unstable knee joint so you can remain active with less pain

How will knee bracing help exactly?

Braces are designed with numerous functions and levels of support in mind, using various materials from stretchy compressive sleeves to metal stabilizing mechanisms. 

These are designed to assist with managing and distributing pressure around your knee. Recognizing your specific condition and needs is key to choosing the type of brace that can best help you. 

When we can identify whether your primary problem is pain, swelling, instability, or osteoarthritis, then you can begin to determine how knee bracing will help you most. An individualized physical therapy treatment plan begins to come into play here too.

 

Knee bracing and physical therapy can help your pain.

Is it safe to wear a knee brace all the time?

It depends on your specific injury. You might be advised to wear your knee brace daily, especially if you are active, or it may only be necessary for specific activities or sports. Talk to a physical therapist near you for the best advice specific to your knee . Unless otherwise recommended by your doctor, make time every day to take your knee brace off. Braces might form sores or aggravate your skin when left on for long periods of time.

What knee brace is best for pain?

It depends on the cause of the pain. When the issue arises due to arthritis, perhaps an unloader brace to reduce the bone-on-bone pressure might be the best choice. But if it’s a ligament tear, you may need a functional brace to provide support if your joint is unstable. A hinged knee brace can be a good choice for recent and acute injuries to reduce pain and add support in the first few weeks after the injury.

Learn about how different types of knee braces might help you.

  1. Hinged Knee Brace 

Knee bracing can help reduce pain simply in that it provides extra support and stability when it’s needed. A hinged knee brace can give an unstable or injured knee joint a sense of more stability. Sturdy plastic or metal supports provide supplemental support for an acute or particularly painful injury. I often recommend this type of brace to my patients because it gives them the support they need to move and remain active with less pain.

Alternatively, if you have pain beneath or around your patella (kneecap), patellofemoral braces can provide stabilization which may help to reduce pressure under the kneecap. Using a hinged brace and specific physical therapy exercises can improve the tracking of your kneecap, resulting in less pain.

 

  1. Compression Brace

A compression knee brace might be a good option if swelling is the primary concern since it provides firm compression to manage swollen tissues. Patients tell me they like this type of brace because they feel more confident about their knees. Compression braces support your knee, making it easier – and more comfortable – to walk and be on your feet.

Compression sleeves are made with breathable, lightweight materials that tend to be more comfortable to get on and off for everyday activities and sports. 

 

  1. Unloader Brace

I see more people in their 40’s, 50′, and up reporting knee pain due to osteoarthritis from years of wear and tear. Active lifestyles are the norm as people age, so I encounter this complaint all the time.

Unloader braces were created to lessen pain from osteoarthritis by shifting and “unloading” bodyweight off the more damaged portions of your knee, reducing the pain from bone-on-bone tenderness.

Several studies now advise that unloader knee braces and physical therapy exercises can reduce knee pain, improve the quality of function and activity levels, and help postpone or even avoid the need for surgical procedures.

Knee bracing and physical therapy are effective treatment options for knee pain due to osteoarthritis. Doctors and physical therapists often recommend them as part of a comprehensive treatment approach.

  1. Bracing the knee for Structured Support

If you have a ligament injury or tear,  a functional brace will provide support to reduce pain due to an unstable knee. The brace can help protect the ligament by limiting side-to-side and forward-back motions of the knee. 

Research suggests that knee bracing may help reduce your risk of re-injury and ongoing damage. If you’re getting back to your favorite sport, you’ll want to consider braces that provide dynamic support to help protect your knee for sports involving sharp turns, lateral movement, or contact.

2. Knee Bracing and Physical Therapy

Remember that knee braces can only do so much. Strength and resilience are important for managing knee pain and injuries. However, a knee brace might be great to help you stay active while getting stronger.

No matter if your knee pain stems from a ligament issue, meniscal tear, or arthritis, keep in mind: Even with a brace on, you can still injure your knee. It is important to keep up with your physical therapy treatment and keep your leg stro

So now what? Which kind of knee brace is best for you?

Remember: to find the right type of brace for you, it’s critical to accurately determine the specific condition you want the brace to address.

Ask yourself this: “Is my pain my primary issue? Swelling? Instability? Arthritis?

Don’t worry if this information is overwhelming. There are lots of different knee braces out there. An expert physical therapist near you will help determine your specific needs and advise you to find what works best in your situation.  

Did this information resonate with you? If so, you would greatly benefit from a FREE, 1-on-1 assessment of your individual body so we can get you back to being more active with pain.

Chris S
AUTHOR

Dr. Chris Sovey

Healthy Consumer PT

"We Help Adults 40+ Living With Pain, Stiffness, Or Loose Joints Get Healthy, Age Stronger, And Get Back To The Activities They Love, Even If Past Treatments Have Failed"

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