Should You Use a Knee Brace?
In the U.S., the population is getting older, more people are overweight, and more young adults are playing sports and getting seriously injured. As a result, knee injuries in the U.S. are on the rise - and people are wondering: Should I use a knee brace?
The first thing to look at is that there are different kinds of knee braces for different knee problems.
Here are the four main kinds of knee braces:
- Prophylactic braces. These are designed to protect knees from injuries during contact sports (like football, for example).
- Functional braces. These give support to knees that have already been injured.
- Rehabilitative braces. These limit harmful knee movement while a knee is healing after an injury or surgery.
- Unloader/offloader braces. These are designed to provide relief to people who have arthritis in their knees.
Do Knee Braces Work?
Companies that make knee braces claim that their products work well. However, scientific studies have not completely agreed. The findings show that braces often work better in the laboratory than they do in normal use. However, in general, most people who wear knee braces report that they feel that they help.
The need for a brace (and what kind of knee brace) should be determined by your doctor.
Getting a Knee Brace
There are many ways to get a knee brace. Pharmacies or medical supply stores often carry simple knee sleeves or supports. Some people order knee braces directly from manufacturers or on the Internet. Your doctor is a good resource and may know about many different knee brace companies. Your doctor can help you choose a brace and get the correct size.
Using a Knee Brace
To work well, a knee brace should be worn during all activities that put you at risk of injury to your knee. It's important to know that poorly positioned braces can hurt rather than help you. During sports, knee braces should be used as directed by your doctor. Take care when putting the brace on to make sure that the hinges are where the knee bends. Straps, tapes or hook-and-loop tapes should be fastened around your leg. You should check the placement of the brace during activities to make sure that it hasn't moved.
Taking Care of Your Knee Brace
Knee braces often get damaged during normal use. You should inspect your brace often for wear and tear. Regular cleaning with soap and water is good for the brace fabric. Exposed metal should be covered to protect others from injury. A worn-out knee brace should be replaced for maximum benefit.
Knee braces are actually the least important part of preventing knee injuries or getting better after an injury. Even with a knee brace on, you could still injure your knee. Stretching, strengthening and technique improvement are much more important.
Here are some tips:
- Always warm up. Don't forget to warm up before any athletic activity with stretching and light jogging or walking.
- Control your weight. The more you weigh, the more pressure on your joints, which can lead to knee damage and injury. Studies have found a link between being overweight and developing osteoarthritis of the knees.
- Go low-impact. Although there is no definitive link between osteoarthritis of the knee and running, sports medicine doctors discourage their patients from running on hard pavement, or skiing over lots of moguls. If you run regularly, consider doing one day a week on a track or treadmill, or swapping out one day for swimming bicycling, or yoga.
- Avoid being a weekend warrior. Sitting behind a desk all week, and then playing hard on the weekend can leave you at a greater risk for knee injury. Try to incorporate a moderate workout a few times a week into your schedule to avoid this risk.
- Stretch your muscles. Some doctors believe that regularly stretching your muscles can help prevent knee injuries. Considering attending yoga class at least two times a week.
Note: If you are considering using a knee brace, talk to your doctor.
Aldermann, Leslie. "Save a Knee or Hip, Save Money (and Avoid Pain)." New York Times. 24 Apr. 2010.
"Knee Bracing: What Works?" FamilyDoctor.org. http://familydoctor.org/online/famdocen/home/healthy/physical/injuries/490.html
Mayo Clinic Staff. "Knee Braces." MayoClinic.org. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/knee-braces/MY00137/DSECTION=what-you-can-expect
Paluska, Scott A., McKeag, Douglas B. "Knee Braces: Current Evidence and Clinical Recommendations for their Use." American Family Physician. 15 Jan. 2000. Web. 21 Apr. 2010. http://www.aafp.org/afp/20000115/411.html
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