There are an array of products on the market today that protect the knee after an injury, and offer support during the healing process. Knee support products come in various types and styles, and they can treat a myriad of different knee conditions. So how do knee supports work?
Two of the most common products are sleeves and braces. A sleeve is pulled over the knee, and tends to have some stretchiness and give in the fabric. A brace, however, is much stiffer and usually wraps around the knee with straps of some kind. Both are used to treat injuries including: swelling, sprains, cartilage irritation, bursitis, patellar tendonitis, arthritis, and chondromalacia patella.
Sometimes health professionals will recommend the use of a brace after a knee surgery. Braces and sleeves are both versatile products in that they can be used for both short-term and long-term purposes. They may also be used in combination with other types of physical therapy.
How does a Knee Brace Work?
Depending on the type of brace, it may be designed to allow compression to reach the knee. This compression supports the ligaments and muscles in the knee. When a person puts weight on their knees as they use their legs, the knee muscles are strained. While this isn’t a problem for people with healthy knees, people with an injured knee can find this repeated stress to be detrimental. Knee braces bridge the gap between total immobility and too much strain. They allow a person to remain mobile, without needing to put their full weight on their knee.
When a person puts their weight on their knee, the knee is pressed against the brace. The brace is stiff enough to restrict the knee’s range of motion while also taking some of the weight off of the joint, preventing a recurring strain.
Sometimes, both braces and sleeves serve another purpose: sealing heat into the knee. When the knee’s warmth is prioritized, circulation improves and healing time is decreased. This is especially important when people live in cold climates. Cold injuries don’t heal as quickly as warm ones, and it’s better for your own comfort to have your knee warmed.
Do Knee Supports Prevent Injury?
It’s true that wearing a knee brace following an injury can speed the healing process and prevent further damage to the joint, but they won’t necessarily prevent an injury. You cannot avoid sustaining a knee injury simply by wearing a brace.
How to Choose Your Knee Support
When you’re choosing a knee support, you should consider the following factors:
- How active is your lifestyle? How much mobility do you need to retain?
- What type of injury do you have?
- What is the severity of the injury?
- Has your doctor, physical therapist, or other health professional made a recommendation about the type of support you should use?
- Will your health insurance cover the knee support of your choice? And if not, can you afford it?
When you purchase and knee brace, it’s important that the support of your choice is positioned and fitted properly. Improper fitting can result in reduced support at best, and injury at worst. For a support product to work effectively, it should be used during any strenuous physical activities.
Types of Knee Supports
There are some fundamental differences in design among the different knee supports:
- These support all of the areas that surround the knee. They’re easy to position, and they retain a large amount of heat. Generally, sleeves are the cheapest and also the best for people with mild knee pain. They are not, however, the best choice for moderate knee pain or injury recovery.
Open sleeve aids
- These products are designed with a support buttress and a hole in the front, which reduces pressure to the kneecap. This is best utilized by people whose pain is concentrated in the front of the knee.
Wrap around knee aids
- As the name implies, these wrap around the knee, usually through the use of straps. Rather than having one size, they can be adjusted to fit a wide range of body shapes and sizes. These aids are ideal if the knee is swollen from the injury. Sometimes these aids are open at the front for reduced knee pressure, and sometimes they’re closed-off fully. No complex measurements are required since the size is adjustable.
Regardless of the knee support type you choose, you should make sure that it feels secure and comfortable. If it’s causing you pain or discomfort, you should look for a different aid. It’s also helpful to get your doctor’s opinion regarding the type and brand of support you’re buying.
To learn more about knee supports and to find one that’s right for you, visit Focus Physiotherapy website.