Dr. MJ Bazos MD,
Knee Bracing: What
What are knee braces?
Knee braces are supports that you wear for a
painful or injured knee. Some people use them to prevent knee injuries during
sports. Braces are made from combinations of metal, foam, plastic, elastic
material and straps. They come in many sizes, colors and designs.
What kinds of knee braces are there?
What do they do?
There are four main kinds of knee braces:
- Prophylactic (say: pro-fa-lack-tick) braces.
These are designed to protect knees from injuries during contact sports like
- Functional braces. These give support to knees
that have already been injured.
- Rehabilitative braces. These limit harmful knee
movement while a knee is healing after an injury or surgery.
- Patellofemoral (say: pa-tell-o-fem-or-all)
braces. These help the kneecap move smoothly over the knee joint.
Do knee braces
Maybe. Companies that make knee braces claim
that their products work well. Scientific studies have not completely agreed.
It's not clear what the knee braces actually do. Braces often work better in the
laboratory than they do in normal use.
In general, functional braces and rehabilitative
braces are the most effective. Braces help some people more than others. Some
people are afraid that knee braces may actually increase the number of knee
injuries in athletes. In general, most people who wear knee braces feel that
they help. Doctors are trying to learn more about how well knee braces really
work and when it's best to use them. Remember, the need for a brace should be
determined by your doctor.
When are knee braces used?
Different knee problems require different knee
braces. Your doctor may suggest one kind of knee brace after knee surgery. Some
doctors may choose another kind of knee brace for support instead of surgery for
a torn knee ligament. You may also need one for pain in the front of your knee
that isn't getting better with strengthening and flexibility exercises. Braces
don't seem to work well to stop knee injuries from happening. Get your doctor's
advice if you want to try a knee brace.
How do I get a knee brace?
You have many ways to get a knee brace.
Pharmacies or medical supply stores often carry simple knee sleeves or supports.
Some people order knee braces directly from the manufacturers or through the
Internet. Your doctor is a good resource and may know about many different knee
brace companies. Your doctor can help you choose a brace and get the correct
Some knee braces cost hundreds of dollars.
Sometimes medical insurance companies cover them. Remember, the most expensive
brace isn't always the best one.
How do I use a knee brace?
During sports, knee braces should be used as
directed by your doctor. Take care when putting the brace on to make sure that
the hinges are where the knee bends. Straps, tapes or hook-and-loop tapes should
be fastened around your leg. You should check the placement of the brace during
activities to make sure that it hasn't moved. Poorly positioned braces can hurt
rather than help you.
To work well, a knee brace should be worn during
all activities that put you at risk of injury to your knee. Don't forget to warm
up properly before beginning any athletic activity.
How do I care for my knee brace?
Knee braces often get damaged during normal use.
You should inspect your brace often for wear and tear. Regular cleaning with
soap and water is good for the brace fabric. Exposed metal should be covered to
protect others from injury. A worn-out brace should be replaced for maximum
benefit. More durable materials may cost more, but the brace might last longer.
Should I keep doing leg exercises
once I have a knee brace?
Knee braces are the least important part of
preventing knee injuries or getting better after an injury. Even with a knee
brace on, you could still injure your knee. Stretching, strengthening and
technique improvement are much more important.
You should make changes in intensity or training
schedules little by little, to limit knee stress. Good strength and flexibility
are important for holding down knee pain and injuries. You should work out an
exercise plan with your doctor to get the best program for you. Don't let a knee
brace become a "crutch."