Osteoarthritis knee brace forum
by Nathan Wei, MD, FACP, FACR
Nathan Wei is a nationally known board-certified rheumatologist and author of the Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit. It's available exclusively at this website... not available in stores.
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Knee braces are supports that patients wear when they have a painful knee. Some people use them to prevent knee injuries during sports; however, patients with significant arthritis of the knee also benefit.
Braces are made from combinations of metal, foam, plastic, elastic material, Neoprene, and straps. They come in many sizes, colors and designs.
There are three main kinds of knee braces used for arthritis:
1. Functional braces. These give support to knees that have had a prior injury. Patients who have had an injury and who have some arthritis do well with these types of braces.
2. Rehabilitative braces. These limit knee movement while a knee is healing after an injury or surgery.
3. Unloader/offloader braces. These are designed to provide relief to people who have arthritis in their knees. These braces unload the narrowed arthritic compartment of the knee.
Scientific studies as to the effectiveness of these braces have been mixed. It's not clear what the knee braces actually do. Braces often work better in the laboratory than they do in real life.
In general, functional braces and rehabilitative braces are the most effective. Some people are afraid that knee braces may actually increase the number of knee injuries in athletes. Most people who wear knee braces feel that they help.
Different knee problems require different knee braces.
There are 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. Orthotists are specialists in fitting braces.
Some knee braces cost hundreds of dollars. Sometimes medical insurance companies cover them.
Fitting a brace properly is key. That's where an orthotist can provide the most advice. Take care when putting the brace on to make sure that the hinges are where the knee flexes. Straps or hook-and-loop tapes should be fastened correctly. One should check the placement of the brace after activity to make sure it hasn't moved. Poorly positioned braces can harm rather than help.
To work well, a knee brace should be worn during all activities that put a patient at risk of injury to the knee.
One should inspect the 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 from injury. A worn-out brace should be replaced.
Knee braces are not a substitute for stretching and strengthening.
One should not become dependent on a knee brace.
Combining the brace with medications, physical therapy, and injections of either glucocorticoid or viscosupplement works well for most people.
Following a stem cell procedure, we always put a patient into an unloader brace for the first few weeks.
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