Knee Braces: Choosing The Best Knee Brace For You
Knee injuries can be some of the most debilitating injuries one can deal with. Whether you have a recent injury or if you’ve been having persistent knee pain, you know exactly how tough it can be to get from one place to another with this type of injury. Although knee injuries come in many forms, there are some key things that you can do to help recover and get back on your feet. Physiotherapy and rehabilitation are definitely recommended, however, if your pain is too intense it may limit what exercises and protocols you are able to follow. This is why many rehabilitation centers recommend knee braces for their patients. Whether you have a serious injury such as an ACL tear or a less severe injury such as a knee sprain a brace can help get you on the road to recovery. Below we will explore the many aspects to take into account when finding the perfect knee brace for you.
What are knee braces for?
Although this can be a very complicated question, the simple answer is that knee braces help provide support and protection for your knee. Knee braces are case specific and for that reason, they will work in different manners for different cases. Certain injuries will require certain types of knee braces, and certain activities will feel better with certain types of braces. However, in a nutshell, knee braces help restrict certain motions that can potentially cause your condition and/or pain to exacerbate.
How do knee braces work? What do Knee braces do?
Knee pain comes in various shapes and forms. Whether you have a torn ligament (ACL, MCL, PCL OR LCL), a meniscus tear, patellar issues or even arthritis there is a knee brace that can work for you! Below we are going to list the various types of knee braces, how they work, what injuries they are usually used for and some pros/cons for each.
Custom knee braces
Custom knee braces are knee braces that are made specifically for the mold of your knee and specifically for your type of injury. These knee braces require your therapist to take at least 5 custom measurements of your knee, dictate your exact injury, and tailor the struture to provide you the best possible support. The benefits of custom knee braces, besides the increased protection and stability they provide, is that they are formulated to help deal with your SPECIFIC knee injury. Whether it is a meniscal tear, ligamentous injury or a severe knee sprain, this brace will be molded to conform to your body/knee type. The downside for a custom knee brace is its cost. A completely custom knee brace can start at $1000 or more. Almost all insurance companies will cover, at least partially, your custom knee brace even if they don’t list it in your coverage details. If your doctor/surgeon has recommended one, make sure you or your healthcare provider calls your insurance company to see if there is any coverage you can benefit from. A custom knee brace, when applicable, is definitely worth the consideration as nothing else will truly feel the same.
Hinged knee braces
Hinged knee braces are ideally used for patient’s who have more serious injuries such as ACL, MCL or LCL injuries. They are also very good for providing protection and stability post surgery. In the initial phases of recovery, these types of braces are used to help protect and prevent your injured ligaments from getting worse. The great thing about these types of braces is that, although they are commonly used for patients post surgery/injury, they can also be used by athletes to help provide added stability to their knee region when returning to mild activity. If you have had a ligamentous injury to your knee this is one of the best types of braces to get. The downside to a hinged brace is that it can become uncomfortable because of the rigid side-bars. However this is a small price to pay for the support hinged braces provide
Slip-on knee braces
These types of braces are used more for mild-moderate joint and muscle injuries. These types of braces work well with patients who have arthritis or chronic knee pain. These knee braces do not restrict motion in the manner that hinged braces do, so you are able to have added protection without having a decreased range of motion. Many patients elect to use this type of brace for less severe injuries as it is more comfortable, less bulky and much lighter than a hinged knee brace. Along with adding protection, these knee braces also help re-distribute force around your knee to help it feel more comfortable and heal faster. These are great for those returning to sport or activity as they provide just enough support without movement restrictions.
Wrap around knee braces
These type of braces are used for patellar instability, patellar dislocations and mild to moderate knee pain. These types of braces help keep your knee cap in place and help keep your knee secure. Along with helping specifically with the patellar stabilization, these braces can help take stress off your knee and allow you to move easier. These are very easy to take on and off, and are lightweight, but can be less durable then some of the other choices.
Open vs Closed Patellar knee braces
You may have seen some knee braces with holes where the knee is, while you may have noticed others that are closed. The difference between these two braces is that the ones that are open help deal with the pain that is associated with your knee cap, while the other braces are more for injuries that do not specifically affect the knee cap. The open knee braces allow your patella to sit supported in its ideal position and aims at preventing movement.
How do I choose a knee brace
The best way to choose a knee brace is to consult a healthcare professional and have them advise you on what would work best for you. As a general rule of thumb hinged braces are for more severe injuries such as meniscal tears and ligamentous injuries, whereas slip-on knee braces are better for chronic pain and mild-moderate injuries. Custom knee braces are your best option for serious injuries as they are designed specifically for you. Open Patella braces and wrap around braces are best used to service patellar injuries. Now that you have a better understanding of what knee brace may be for you, make sure to discuss it with your doctor and/or therapist to ensure best results.
Can knee braces cause more pain?
Knee braces, in general, should not be causing increased pain or exacerbating your symptoms. However, if you have the wrong type of knee brace or it is improperly worn knee braces may cause increased pain. Once again this is why it is so important to consult with your healthcare practitioner when choosing a knee brace. It is also important to remember that tighter doesn’t always mean better and it is important to make sure you are not wearing your brace too tight. Another important note is to only wear the brace when needed. Wearing a brace at rest for a mild knee pain will actually cause weakness of the surrounding musculature over time. Weakness will eventually cause more complications, so its important to rehab and remove the brace when you do not require the support.
Where to buy a knee brace?
Knee Braces can be found in all sorts of stores, online websites and even pharmacies. However, the best place to get a knee brace is from your healthcare provider, or from a place that your doctor may recommend. The reason for this is that they will ensure that you are buying the best brace for your specific condition. Also buying from your certified healthcare provider will usually help ensure a higher quality and more durable knee brace.
Knee braces are an amazing way to help heal, protect and improve your knee pain/symptoms. It is very important to understand that all knee braces aren’t made equal and that the specific knee brace that is right for someone else may not be right for you. If knee pain is a constant bother, it may be worth your while to read into the benefits of custom made orthotics as they can provide additional knee support along with your brace. With your new found knowledge of knee braces, it will help you make a more informed decision on what type of braces is best for you, whether it be a slip-on knee brace or a custom fit knee brace always remember to consult a healthcare professional with any questions you may have.