Knee brace support can be used as a preventive measure or to relieve pain that is associated with an injured knee or arthritis. Braces are made from a combination of metal, plastic, foam, elastic straps and can come in many different sizes and designs. There are four different types of knee braces. Functional braces give support to knees that have already been injured. Unloader or off-loader braces are designed to give relief to persons who have arthritis in their knee. Rehabilitative braces are designed to limit the movement of a knee while it is healing from surgery or an injury. Prophylactic braces are designed to protect the knees from injuries that can be sustained during full contact sports. Braces help some persons more than others and the type of brace used should be a decision made with help from a physician.
There are three different types of arthritis. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of knee arthritis and is a degenerative disease that eventually wears away the cartilage in the joints. Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory condition that destroys this cartilage and generally affects both knees at the same time. Post-traumatic arthritis develops after injury and can persist for years after fracture, meniscus tear, or ligament injury. In Osteoarthritis, lifestyle changes are required and can be beneficial. Arthritis knee braces are helpful because they are centered on the knee and can assist with function and stability. Other devices such as canes or shoe inserts cannot provide these benefits. A support brace helps support the entire load that the knee has carry and unloaders pull the load away from the affected portions of the knee. Arthritis knee braces have shown a decrease in pain and provide the ability to walk longer distances.
Proper use of these devices is important. Each brace is designed different and functions in its own way. Understanding which type of brace is best for the injury or condition is important and should be discussed with a physician. After a specific type of brace is prescribed, medical personnel will assist the patient in placing the brace on correctly and provide patient information about caring for the device. Some braces are simply a stretchy foam material that is slid up the leg and put in place around the knee with the knee cap being exposed to allow for a small amount of bending. Others must be wrapped around the knee and secured with Velcro straps. These devices should be worn daily and should be placed on in the morning before natural swelling occurs throughout the day. Tugging the brace on with too much force can cause added injury. The device should be slowly pulled up and placed over the knee in the correct position. Knee brace support may be required overnight to reduce the risk for injury from twisting or turning while sleeping.