February 2008 Wellness Ezine

Knee Brace Know-How: Finding the Right Support for Your Knee

    Overwhelmed by the number of knee braces on the market? Youíre not alone. Tens of thousands of Americans buy knee braces each year, but far fewer actually find the correct support for their knees.
    Knee braces are an important part of prevention and recovery of knee injuries. While they canít completely stop an injury from happening, they are a critical first line of defense. The goal of a knee brace should be to support your knees while providing full flexion. A good knee brace should also protect your knee against hyperextension and any type of medial/lateral flexion (knees donít go this way). Some also limit rotation of the knee in flexion.
    There are four kinds of knee braces: Those that are designed to protect the knees from injuries during contact sports; functional braces to support knees that have already been injured; rehabilitative braces that limit harmful knee movement while a knee is recovering from an injury; unloader/offloader braces that provide relief for those with arthritis.

Knee Braces: What You Need to Know

Type Examples Advantages Disadvantages
Neoprene sleeves Ace Bandage Feeling of security Doesnít provide strong support
Hinged knee-joint braces Hely & Weber Knapp Universal Knee Brace
  • More rigidity
  • Controls lateral medial sheer, hyperextension
  • Feels bulky, especially when doing sports
    Patella-stabilizing knee braces DonJoy Lateral J Knee Brace Critical for proper biomechanics of the knee Brace compresses the knee; be sure to find a comfortable fabric
    Specialty knee braces Asterisk Cell Knee Brace Provides safety and support for the knee joint Specialty braces can be expensive

        At the most basic level are neoprene sleeves, which can warm the knee and limit motion. Wearing the brace also provides psychological benefits. Individuals feel more secure and theyíre more mindful about their knees when wearing the brace. The disadvantage to this kind of brace is that it doesnít provide strong support. Those who have recovered well from previous injuries ó but who are concerned about future injuries ó are good candidates for neoprene sleeves. Try brands like ACE bandages, available at most drug stores.
        Providing a medium level of support are those braces with a hinged knee joint that have a supportive metal or plastic structure. These braces are oftentimes custom made, whereas the neoprene can be bought in most pharmacies. The advantage to this type of brace is that it offers greater rigidity and can better control lateral medial sheer, as well as the potential hyperextension. One disadvantage to the hinged brace is that itís bulky. If youíre doing sports, this could feel like a hindrance and possibly a distraction. Be aware that when playing contact sports, this type brace could cause injuries to others. Try Hely & Weberís Universal Knee Brace, which fits most knees.
        Also in the medium-support category are those braces that are intended to resist lateral displacement of the patella (kneecap). This is a particular injury that causes knee pain in the front. Many active athletes have this problem, which originates from the mal-alignment of the kneecap in relation to the joint. This brace is critical for proper biomechanics of the knee, which is important for any kind of sports performance situation. One popular example of this type of knee brace is the DonJoy Lateral J.
        Some specialty braces, such as those made by Asterisk, have been embraced by the motocross and snowboarding community. Theyíre not only supportive for the joint, but are also useful as safety gear. These braces provide patella protection, in addition to offering extension settings, which can protect the knee upon impact.
        Keep in mind that finding the right knee brace isnít the complete answer to your knee pain. Physical therapy, massage and rehabilitation are just as important as proper knee support. Donít forget to consult your health-care provider. He or she can offer useful information about your injury and helpful tips about the best braces that fit your needs.

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