As the largest joint in the body and because of its exposed position, the knee is especially vulnerable to injury during sports activities. Knee braces, rigid or semirigid orthopedic appliances worn to support painful or injured knees, have garnered recent attention as preventive and therapeutic components in the treatment of sports injuries.
Braces are made from a variety of materials, including metal, foam, plastic, elastic and straps. The types of braces fall into four categories:
- prophylactic, which protects knees from injuries;
- functional, which supports already injured knees;
- rehabilitative, which limits harmful movement while a knee is healing from an injury or surgery; and
- patellofemoral, which helps kneecaps move smoothly.
Different knee problems require different braces. Some knee braces can be used instead of surgery to help torn knee ligaments heal. Another type of brace is used for pain that does not improve with strengthening and flexibility exercises, or you may need a brace following knee surgery.
You may purchase simple knee sleeves or supports at pharmacies and medical supply stores, or you may order knee braces from the manufacturers or suppliers on the Internet. Knee braces are available in presized or custom models, which may affect the cost.
When putting on a knee brace, be sure the hinges are placed where the knee bends. Fasten any straps or tapes around your leg, and check the brace during activity to make sure that it has not moved. A poorly positioned brace can hurt rather than help you.
Because knee braces can be damaged through use, you should inspect your brace often for wear and tear, replacing it when it is worn out. Braces made of more durable materials may cost more but might last longer.
While they are considered useful in the treatment of knee injuries, knee braces are the least important part of preventing knee injuries or getting better after an injury. We can design a series of exercises to stretch and strengthen, and to improve your technique to maximize your rehabilitation or prevent injuries.