Want to try to get rid of pain from arthritis without taking a pill, having a shot, or going through a surgery? Try a knee brace !
The goal of knee bracing is to get rid of pain. There are a few types of knee braces that you should know about from simple to, well, a little less simple.
Simple Knee Brace or Sleve
This basic knee brace or sleeve is usually made from neoprene or other material and simply slips up and over the knee. There are no struts on the side, or other rigid supports. these braces sometimes have a cutout for the kneecap. While this brace does not truly stabilize the knee, it provides a gentle squeeze around the joint and provides a heightened sense of awareness of the knee, making you more cognizant of each step, and in turn, providing protection and security with each step that usually can help to reduce pain. This is a simple knee brace we carry in my office, but can also be purchased from drug stores or online at Amazon:
Hinged Knee Brace
This is the next step from the simple knee sleeve. This knee brace has rigid supports on both sides with a hinge in the middle to allow you to bend. It provides more stability for side-to-side activities and more security when walking. The negative of more stability is a bit more restriction in activity which you might not notice with routine walking.
Unloader Knee Brace
The unloader brace is the best knee brace, short of surgery, to help correct the alignment of your entire leg and decrease pain from arthritis. It is a big step up from a simple brace. While not for everyone, the idea behind this knee brace is to improve your overall leg alignment and decrease the pressure over the arthritic part of the knee. The brace works by trying to slightly push on your lower leg while walking or standing to improve the straightness of your leg. This transfers pressure from the more arthritic side of your knee to the more normal side (either the inside or outside of the knee). You will most notice this brace when your knee comes out into full extension (straight) when you are about to put your foot on the ground with simple walking. I often recommend this brace for active patients with mostly medial (inside) or lateral (outside) arthritis to try to decrease pain and improve confidence with their activities. The potential improvement is significant, and the risk is basically very little ! Usually the cartilage, or bearing surface, on this ‘good’ side can handle the extra pressure, and the pain of arthritis will go down – sometimes significantly – to allow you to walk and be upright. I will usually you try this on and walk a bit to see how it feels. Of all the knee braces, this one actually tries to ‘brace’ the knee and correct a problem while the ones listed above do more for general comfort without changing your knee mechanics. Here is an example but these need to be fit in the office to get the right one.
ACL Knee Brace or Derotational Knee Brace
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The ACL brace, often called a derotational knee brace, tries to help stabilize your knee from rotational forces that might cause injury to your ligaments. This brace is very helpful for my patients with ligament damage that has not been repaired. While nothing can take the place of your natural ligaments, this type of brace may help you feel more ‘stable’ with activities throughout the day. If you like to watch football, watch the linemen – they are usually wearing this kind of brace to hopefully prevent a ligament injury. I have many of my ACL tear patients wear this brace after surgery when playing sports to help prevent rehear, although the literature on knee bracing is not clear that it truly makes a difference in terms of re injury rates.
There are roles for each of these in knee pain and arthritis. It is best for us to talk about which one is best for you.
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